For the first time in its history, the Alan and Cathy Hitchcock Field and Fork Pantry added 30 different spices to its shelves just in time for the holidays.
With the help of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Leadership Institute, the pantry received more than 1,000 containers of spices — and still counting — during their spice drive from Nov. 14 to Nov. 21. The donation wish list included generic spices, like salt and pepper, as well as spices rarely donated to the pantry, like paprika and curry powder.
Clayton Bush, Leadership Institute member and CALS student senator, said the drive aimed to expand holiday season cooking opportunities for international and graduate students, who often remain in Gainesville between semesters and represent a large portion of the pantry’s visitor base.
“Having access to something that can remind them of home during such lonely times during this season was something that we saw as necessary,” Bush said.
The Field and Fork Pantry supplies free food items to all UF students and faculty with the goal of reducing campus food insecurity. Shoppers can take a limited amount of foods from each food group by presenting their Gator 1 cards at checkout.
Although the pantry receives regular donations and proceeds from food drives, the spice drive is the first of its kind. When deciding on its major community project, the Leadership Institute’s 13th cohort turned to the pantry for guidance. Managers at the pantry pointed toward its lack of spices, a part of the culinary repertoire overlooked in previous food drives.
“We hope that people going forward can look at our success and think to do something a little bit more nontraditional and think outside the box,” Bush said.
The spice drive aligns with the pantry’s mission to offer safe and nutritious food for the campus community, said Roselind Brown, the pantry’s assistant director. Some spices carry anti-inflammatory and disease-preventing properties as well, according to a study published in the National Library of Medicine.
“It's a great way to really enhance your meal without having to use butter or something that would add more calories or maybe isn't as nutritious or healthy,” Brown said.
Aside from their nutritional properties, spices also add variety to a home chef’s regular flavor rotation, Brown added.
Brown appreciates student groups’ and the community’s interest in helping the pantry, she said, which inspired the pantry to post a wishlist and food drive form on their website.
“That shows such great empathy,” Brown said. “We are a space in the program, but really we are assisting the gator community as a whole. And I think the students that ran this project really saw that as well.”
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Alissa Gary is a journalism freshman and university administration reporter at The Alligator. Aside from writing, she loves spending time with her cats, catching up on Jeopardy, and seeing the latest movies.