August 31, 2016
Barbara Sobko, left, and Karen Buckner August 31, 2016

What do you call a group of pigs? If they’re young, they’re properly called a “drift,” a “drove” or a “litter.” If they’re older, they’re “a sounder of swine.” If they’re hogs, it’s a “passel.”

But starting today at UAB, a team of 850 little green pigs might rightly be called the answer to a surprising need among an estimated 20 percent of UAB students.

The UAB National Alumni Society and the UAB Student Alumni Society are partnering on “Feed the Pig,” a fundraiser to benefit the UAB Student Food and Supply Pantry. Founded in 2013 by UAB’s Office of Student Advocacy, Rights and Conduct, the pantry aims to alleviate food insecurity, hunger and poverty among UAB’s nearly 19,000 students.

“Food insecurity -- a lack of resources needed to feed yourself either nutritiously or consistently -- has increasingly become an issue on college and university campuses, and can pose a significant barrier to student success,” says Vice President for Student Affairs John R. Jones III, PhD. “Our case managers realized that some UAB students faced food insecurity on a regular basis, and needed help so they could focus on their studies, families and work.

In addition to the UAB Student Food and Supply Pantry, the Student Advocacy, Rights and Conduct partners with Donor to Diner, a student organization, and Campus Dining to offer a meal donation drive and food donation drive for the pantry.

The drive, called the One Meal Initiative, raises on average more than 250 meal vouchers per term, and hundreds of pounds of canned goods. The vouchers – good for a hot meal at UAB’s Dining Commons -- are distributed to students in need by the SARC case managers.

For more on Donor to Diner, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u13kdkUqygQ

“Our pantry was the first student food bank in Alabama,” he adds. “We currently serve about 500 students per year, and have assisted more than 1,700 students since 2013.”

Why would students – many of whom pay for meal plans – face food insecurity? According to Emily Feinstein, Director of Student Advocacy, Rights and Conduct, the reasons vary. “Students may be working one or more jobs to cover rent, tuition and other costs,” she says. “Many have families to care for, or limited transportation options. Community-based food resources are typically not located close to college campuses, and college students might not be comfortable accessing services off campus. And some of our students have not managed their meal plans well earlier in the semester, which means they have a short-term gap to fill while they figure out how to make better choices next semester.”

Whatever the reason, the need is more common than many might realize. “Food insecurity cuts across all demographic statuses, enrollment levels, and geographic locations,” Feinstein adds. “Empty cupboards and scraping by are a way a life for far too many students. These stressors affect student success -- learning, grades, graduation, and the time it takes to complete a degree. So addressing food insecurity on campus serves both a human service and educational need.”

Housed in the Hill Student Center, the Food and Supply Pantry distributes about 15,000 pounds of food annually to UAB students and their families, and also offers school supplies and personal hygiene items. Students make their selections in private, and bags are provided so they can carry supplies out discreetly.

Operating costs are covered by donations. So the pigs – green plastic piggy banks placed on the Campus Green today for students to pick up and start filling with change – are a way to raise awareness and funds for the program.

“Students are asked to ‘feed their pig’ starting now through November 9,” says Alumni Affairs Specialist Mack Ingram. “Each time they bring a full pig to the UAB Alumni House, they’ll be eligible for prizes, and the funds will go toward stocking the pantry.”

“Feed the Pig” will end on November 9 with a pig roast on the Campus Green. To support the project, visit https://crowdfund.uab.edu/feedthepig