2020 marks the UT LEAD program’s first annual food drive, benefiting Smokey’s Pantry. UT LEAD, a program for first generation college students, hopes to help any and all Vols facing food insecurity.
Donations are being accepted until Feb. 14. Students are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items, such as ramen and canned goods to be given to Smokey’s Pantry.
Smokey’s Pantry is the first food pantry at UT, with a mission to provide food for students, faculty and staff who are in need.
According to the Hope 4 College program, 45% of nearly 86,000 college students who participated in a survey reported being food insecure in the prior 30 days.
It is easy to believe that one being privileged enough to attend college means that food on the table is never a question; however, with student loans and college tuition on the rise, the cost of living can become insurmountable for some.
Smokey’s Pantry was founded in 2016 and is located on Melrose Avenue, only a short distance away from the heart of campus.
Vols are encouraged to visit Smokey’s Pantry as no qualifying information is required to receive goods. The pantry is open every Tuesday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Although the food pantry has been largely successful, items are always needed in order to keep a readily available stock. Hygiene products are in need alongside nonperishable food goods.
Megan King, advocate for the UT lead program and professional academic coach, explained how students and staff can help the cause if they are unable to currently donate to the food drive.
“If you can’t donate, spread the word on campus about Smokey’s. If you know of someone who is facing food insecurity let them know that Smokey’s Pantry is a great place to get food, no questions asked,” King said.
UT LEAD, whose name stands for Leadership, Excellence, Achievement and Diversity, decided to hold the food drive to give all students an opportunity for success.
UT LEAD program director Aya Barnes explained why it is important that UT LEAD members participate in this form of community service.
“Statistics have shown that first-generation, low-income and minority students are typically the most food insecure on campus. All of our LEAD students are first-generation, so having them lead these drives helps to combat an issue within their own interpretive communities,” Barnes said.
UT LEAD students and advisors will be set up in front of Clement and Massey Hall to take donations this week. There will also be a drop off area in Greve Hall room 324, from 8 a.m to 5 p.m. throughout the week.
“Engaging in community service is a big component of our program; we want our students to understand the importance of and engage in volunteering services,” Barnes said.
Not only is the UT LEAD program looking to harbor academic success, but also to plant a seed for passionate community service in its students. With the food drive, UT LEAD students are able to interact with the people donating first hand, as well as stop by Smokey’s Pantry to see the donations they collected overfill the shelves.
UT’s first generation college students have the power to make an incredible impact on campus with events like the food drive. As the program works to make the food drive an annual event, students, faculty and staff who are not a part of UT LEAD are encouraged to support their fellow Vols through this small act of kindness.