|Submission Date||April 3, 2017|
|1.00 / 1.00||
Smokey’s Pantry is the student-inspired, student-led food pantry at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UT), whose mission it is to ensure all students, faculty, and staff here at UT and the surrounding community have access to adequate nutrition, while treating all guests with dignity and respect. Located conveniently on campus, anyone can come into the pantry to get necessary groceries and hygiene products, as well as engage in the opportunity to learn more about food sustainability issues and environmentally friendly practices. The idea for this project was born within the university’s SGA Environment & Sustainability Committee in the summer of 2015, in response to the campus community’s focus on food sustainability. The student-led project worked to collaborate with a variety of stakeholders on and off campus, including: the Tyson House (the Lutheran and Episcopalian Campus Ministry), FISH Hospitality Pantries (a local non-profit food pantry network), the Office of Student Life, the Office of Sustainability, and many more. Smokey’s Pantry opened for its first distribution day in January of 2016, and is open every Tuesday from 4-6 PM to the public. In October of 2016, Erica Davis, one of the original students who helped plan and execute the project, was awarded the Student Sustainability Leadership Award from AASHE for her work in seeing this project come to fruition in harmony with other food movements on campus, like the UT chapter of the Food Recovery Network who works with Smokey’s Pantry to provide fresh produce from campus markets and dining locations that would have otherwise been thrown away.
There is a very real stigma in American society that prevents people from taking advantage of “handouts” like groceries from food pantries and enrolling in SNAP (according to the USDA, only 60% of working poor households that qualify for food stamps actually take advantage of the program). Smokey’s Pantry works to fight against that stigma by maintaining an environment of dignity, and respect. They do not ask for IDs or any qualifying information from those who come for help. Smokey's Pantry also provides volunteer opportunities for clubs, organizations, and individuals. Those who volunteer often come back, whether to volunteer again or to supplement their own groceries for the week. Smokey’s Pantry has been able to not only fill the need on UT’s campus, but it has also become an important facet of UT – enriching the experience of students, staff, faculty, and the greater Knoxville community.
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