Smokey’s Pantry works to provide food for all

Smokey's Pantry, UT's first food pantry, opened its doors on Tuesday, Jan. 26.

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The University of Tennessee’s first food pantry, Smokey’s Pantry, opened its doors on Tuesday, Jan. 26, at the Tyson House on Melrose Avenue.

The pantry held its first distribution day from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. The pantry is the result of a partnership between the Tyson House, FISH Hospitality Pantries and the Environment and Sustainability  Student Services Committee (E & S).

Erica Davis, UT student and director of the pantry, said they had the idea to start it as a way of providing food for students, staff and faculty on campus who need it. The pantry is also a method of diverting food waste from going into landfills.

“Food pantries are rooted in the idea of conservation,” Davis said. “Food that people would otherwise not eat or wouldn’t want instead goes to feed people and their families who need it.”

Davis said she started talking with administrators to garner support for the idea. She got a Student Environmental Initiatives Fee, also known as a “Green Fee,” proposal approved for $1,000 and was able to secure a location in the Tyson House after speaking with Tyson House intern Robin Lovett at a Black Lives Matter panel.

“The partnership kind of fell into place in a really unexpected, really wonderful, effortless way,” Davis said.

Davis said those who work in the pantry are reaching out to other campus organizations, such as the Pride Center, and utilizing social media to spread the word. She said coverage from local news media has also helped in getting the message out.

“I think it’s going to take a little bit of visibility and a lot of word of mouth to make sure everybody knows,” Davis said.

No identification is required and there are no restrictions placed on who is allowed to come and get food from the pantry.

Andrew Frantz, a member of E & S and a volunteer for the first distribution day, said they students to know that the service is here for them. Frantz emphasized that everyone is welcomed at Smokey’s Pantry.

“It’s just one of those ways that all students can connect with each and just benefit from a common goal,” Frantz said.  “If you need food, if you need something, we’re here to help you with that problem. It’s just to give people the option to have food while they’re here.”

More information about Smokey’s Pantry can be found on Facebook or by emailing smokeyspantry@gmail.com

Featured image taken by Courtney Anderson

Edited by Jessica Carr

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