UK organization fights on-campus hunger one brown tote at a time


The Big Blue Pantry, located at CB 25 in the basement of the Whitehall classroom building, combats food insecurity amongst UK students. Photo by Amanda Bryant.

Amanda Bryant

While cramming for due dates and hitting the books for exams, some students had the added concern of where their dinner would come from each night.

The Big Blue Pantry, located at CB 25 in the basement of the Whitehall classroom building, is on campus to combat this problem and remove a need for meals from students’ concerns.

The pantry had to extend its hours this year in response to a survey which said that 43 percent of UK students experienced some sort of food insecurity, according to Big Blue Pantry Student Director Meghana Kudrimoti.

The UK Food and Housing Access Survey in question was conducted by students and researchers last year. The results concluded that an estimated 13,000 students are in some way affected by not knowing when they would be able to purchase their next meal.

“Moreover, the study found that while most students were aware of resources such as the Big Blue Pantry, students were reluctant to use them because they were either inaccessible or stigmatized,” Kudrimoti said.

The pantry is operated through the UK Center for Community Outreach. The pantry’s available hours are supervised by sophomore economics major M.J. Hayden and freshman Jessica Murrah, who work for the pantry and divide the hours up into 10 each for the week.

The pantry consists of shelving units located around three of the four walls holding everyday grocery items. In the center is a table which can be accessed by students for items such as recipe cards, budget friendly grocery shopping tips and lollipops. Items such as canned vegetables, dry goods like oats, cereal and pasta, and toiletry items including ladies’ sanitary products are just a few of the goods available.

The two most popular items, according to Hayden, are granola bars and peanut butter. A fridge has been implemented this year as well and holds perishable items such as milk and eggs, which are also popular items among students.

“I see about four students within a shift and some days up to six,” Hayden said.

The pantry operates largely on monetary donations, according to Hayden, but also sees items donated directly about twice a shift from some student organizations, such as the Black Graduate and Professional Student Association, who have donated an estimated 450 pounds of food.

Donations can be dropped off in person, or donated goods can be picked up or a monetary donation given by contacting the Big Blue Pantry. There is also a new online platform designed to allow a donation to be made on their website by way of credit or debit card in any amount.

The pantry itself is largely quiet through mid-day while one student is present as a supervisor. UK students can present their student ID upon coming to the pantry to be eligible for their food or household items. A student is given a canvas shopping tote to get what they need, and there is no set limit as to what a student can take.

The UK Center for Community Outreach encourages all students who are in need to use the pantry.