UCF’s Knights Helping Knights Pantry recently opened its second location of its on-site food pantry at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management campus. The endeavor realizes a personal mission of Rosen staff members and represents the next step in UCF’s efforts to fight food insecurity.

The new pantry is housed within a 19-square-foot space inside of the foyer of Rosen’s Darden Auditorium. It will be open to students on Mondays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. as well as by appointment, via email at PineapplePantry@ucf.edu. The pantry will offer non-perishable food items and basic hygiene goods, resources that the UCF staff members who have been leading this effort say will make a difference for students.

“We want to build an environment where students feel comfortable coming to us with their needs. ” – Wendy McKnight, UCF staff member

“Simply knowing that these goods are here for them will make a major impact in how our students perform in classes and how they go about their everyday lives here at UCF,” says Wendy McKnight, a UCF staff member who has been spearheading the effort to open a pantry on the campus in the heart of the tourism industry for a number of years. “We want to build an environment where students feel comfortable coming to us with their needs. This is our latest step in building that environment.”

Witnessing how a series of hurricanes in 2016 left many Rosen students temporarily food insecure, McKnight presented the idea of an additional pantry right on campus to Rosen’s administration, reached out to staff members at the main campus’s pantry to learn their day-to-day operations, and worked closely with officials in UCF Facilities Operations to secure the best space.

For now, McKnight will conduct the operations for the food pantry in addition to her regular duties in the Office of Student Services. Efforts are currently in progress to recruit student volunteers to perform the day-to-day work of the pantry under McKnight’s supervision.

A student grabs some items from the Rosen campus’ new Knights Pantry. (Photo by Tom Bell ’08)

“From the beginning, the university viewed the concept of a food pantry on Rosen’s campus as significant for our students to realize their fullest potential at UCF,” says Genyth Travis ’17MS, a senior assistant director for Undergraduate Admissions and graduate of UCF’s master’s in hospitality and tourism management. “If you’re a student, and you’re hungry, and you’re stressed out about where your next meal is coming from, how can we expect you to be academically successful?”

Working closely with McKnight, Travis played an integral role in shepherding the food pantry to fruition, and the two will continue their partnership to shape its vision for the future.

“For many of our students, especially those without vehicles, making their way to the main campus’s pantry is simply not a practical option” says Travis. “The fact that these resources will be right down the hall will play a major difference in our student’s lives.”

“The fact that these resources will be right down the hall will play a major difference in our student’s lives.” – Genyth Travis ’17MSUCF staff member

In addition to conducting its own donation efforts, the Rosen Pantry will share resources with the main campus’s Knights Helping Knights Pantry, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last year. Located in Ferrell Commons, the pantry was established by a group of LEAD Scholars as a class project during the Great Recession. A member of the College and University Food Bank Alliance, the pantry started with a simple mission: Make sure students never have to choose between paying for food or paying for an education.

In 2019 alone, the main campus’s pantry saw more than 42,000 visits by UCF students and more than 70,000 lbs of food were distributed. Since 2013 — the pantry’s earliest recorded data — there have been nearly 145,000 visits by students. Last year, UCF student workers logged more than 5,000 volunteer hours.

The Knights Helping Knights Pantry receives contributions from a wide range of university partners, including fresh produce from the UCF Arboretum and Volunteer UCF, which funnels student staffers into the pantry. Additionally, the pantry has established donation partnerships with local entities, including Mercy Ministries, Publix Super Market at Town Park, Second Harvest Food Bank, and Walmart.

“For more than a decade, the Knights Helping Knights Pantry has worked to provide much needed sustenance and household necessities for students who happen to have fallen onto hard times. The growth of the pantry has been a university-wide effort that speaks to the best of what UCF represents,” says Jeannie Kiriwas ’05 ’07MA, an associate director at the UCF Student Union, who has overseen operations for Knights Helping Knights since 2015. “We look forward to a strong partnership with the Rosen pantry, sharing our ideas and resources for the benefit of UCF’s student body.”