Hurricane Irma sparked a huge demand at Knights Helping Knights Pantry from University of Central Florida students who were left short of food and other necessities. But the response from the UCF community in the past week has been even more overwhelming.
On Saturday, the UCF Foundation announced an effort to replenish the Knights Pantry shelves. Alumnus and Foundation board chairman Nelson Marchioli ’72 and his wife Carole pledged to personally match up to $25,000 in donations to make sure no Knight would go hungry.
Alumni, parents, faculty, staff, students and others sprang to action, donating food, clothing, toiletries and dollars. Cash contributions quickly reached $32,000, prompting Marchioli to increase his matching contribution to $32,000. Another alumnus who asked to remain anonymous kicked in another $10,000, and by Wednesday evening donations had reached nearly $81,000.
After hearing about the need, Farm Share, a statewide food bank that has been providing support post-Irma, trucked in 10 pallets of non-perishable food from Jacksonville on Wednesday. The same day, the Student Government Association hosted Uknighted for Knights Pantry, which challenged student organizations to collect the most non-perishable food.
“The Knights Pantry and the Knights Helping Knights Fund is going to make a big impact for those who have been effected by the storm,” said Michael Morsberger, vice president for advancement and CEO of the UCF Foundation. “It’s yet another example of how people in the Knights family look out for one another – it’s been heartwarming.”
The donations will help meet a critical need at Knights Pantry, which has grown into a national model for campus food pantries since it started in 2009 as a grassroots class project. The first few weeks of every fall semester are the Pantry’s busiest. For many students, financial aid funds haven’t arrived, and those who just started campus jobs haven’t received their first paychecks.
Hurricane Irma added to that stress – for both students and the Pantry.
“Right before the storm happened we had a very large influx of students. As soon as the alert went out that UCF was going to be closed Thursday and Friday, we had about 200 students come in,” said student pantry manager Johnna Gracik, a senior majoring in social work. “Since then, we’ve had student after student coming in, as well as staff members who have been effected by Irma – they’ve lost everything in their fridge, lost things due to flooding or not being able to work.”
The Pantry provides perishable and non-perishable food, clothing, toiletries and other items to students five days a week from its location in Ferrell Commons. Students don’t have to apply or pay for services, and may take up to five food items per day.
Contributions to the Pantry mean it can not only have enough food available for hungry students, but also provide more healthy, fresh and protein-dense options.
“These donations really allow us to re-envision our operation,” said Student Union associate director Jeannie Kiriwas. “It changes not just our ability to distribute food but the wholesomeness of the food.”
Donations can be brought to the Pantry or any of a long list drop-off spots around campus (check here for an interactive map). To support the Pantry financially, donate to the Knights Helping Knights fund.