Blazer Kitchen provides tons of help to employees, students

  • With a great deal of help from volunteers, Blazer Kitchen opened in March to provide a new source of fresh and non-perishable foods for students and employees who need assistance.
  • A total 6,150 pounds of fresh produce, meat, cheese, eggs, canned goods and packaged food has been distributed in the first three months.
  • Some 183 members of the UAB community — including 42 employees, 32 students and their immediate families — have been able to access free food through Blazer Kitchen.
  • Volunteers are needed to assist with shopping and stocking items. Employees and groups interested in volunteering can sign up online.
  • Class and student groups who would like to volunteer should contact the Office of Service Learning and Undergraduate Research.
  • Blazer Kitchen, sponsored by the UAB Benevolent Fund and located in UAB Medical Towers Suite 100, is open 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays and 3-6 p.m. Thursdays.

Hunger is an issue that affects people from all walks of life for many reasons, and the early numbers show the new Blazer Kitchen is helping to curb it on campus and in the community.

Since opening in March the on-campus food bank for employees and students has been busy distributing fresh and non-perishable foods, and the numbers reflect it:

  • Some 183 members of the UAB community — including 42 employees, 32 students and their immediate families — have been able to access free food (and some toiletries).
  • A total 6,150 pounds of fresh produce, meat, cheese, eggs, canned goods and packaged food has been distributed.
  • That provided an average 29.8 meals per person to those who wrestle with food insecurity on UAB’s campus.

"We did not have a specific expectation about the number of people we would serve or the amount of food we would distribute,” said Benevolent Fund Manager Lisa Higginbotham. “Our hope was and is that any member of our UAB family that is hungry will feel comfortable accessing Blazer Kitchen.”

She encouraged people to share the work of Blazer Kitchen with everyone across UAB “because you never know who may be struggling with food insecurity."

Beyond the kitchen counter

“When we can provide additional resources to our shoppers, we acknowledge that food insecurity does not occur in a bubble.”

Blazer Kitchen also connects shoppers to additional resources that can provide for long-term needs in what Higginbotham called a more “holistic approach to food insecurity.”

“When we can provide additional resources to our shoppers, we acknowledge that food insecurity does not occur in a bubble,” Higginbotham said. “Each person who comes to Blazer Kitchen has a story as unique and individual as they are. An employee living paycheck to paycheck who has car repairs that are more than their budget can handle. Students whose financial aid runs out and are waiting for the next semester’s award to arrive. An employee whose child support did not arrive as expected and needs extra help to make it through the month. We help them all.”

A number of the employees have been referred to the Employee Emergency Assistance Program, and students who come in are directed to the office of Student Advocacy, Rights and Conduct, which has a wealth of information regarding resources for them.

The kitchen, sponsored by the UAB Benevolent Fund and located in UAB Medical Towers Suite 100, is open 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays and 3-6 p.m. Thursdays. Employees and students must present a UAB ONE Card or VIVA Health Employee Badge. Email blazerkitchen@uab.edu for more information.

In the community

Through partnerships on campus and within the community, Blazer Kitchen also is able to assist patients and their families.

Since January, Blazer Kitchen has served 925 meals to mothers of UAB Hospital’s littlest patients in the Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. 

“We are so grateful for our community partners that help us in supporting our families by providing food during their time of need,” said Nurse Manager Donna Purvis, “This has also allowed us to better support our breastfeeding mothers in the RNICU.”

Now Blazer Kitchen is working with UAB Medicine on Reducing Senior Hunger, a nationally funded initiative of the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama. Because senior diets typically lack protein, volunteers pack bags with protein-dense foods for seniors treated in UAB Hospital and geriatric clinics. Participating seniors also are referred to a benefits-enrollment center that connects them to community resources.

Pitching in

Volunteers are needed to assist with shopping and stocking items. Employees and groups interested in volunteering can sign up online. Class and student groups should contact the Office of Service Learning and Undergraduate Research. Volunteers interested in helping behind the scenes with logistics and reporting should email benevolentfund@uab.edu.

Want to volunteer during your lunch break to help unpack and sort food? Email benevolentfund@uab.edu.
Have a class or students who want to participate? Email servicelearn@uab.edu
Give directly to the Blazer Kitchen (#680) with your Benevolent Fund Pledge.

Blazer Kitchen collaborates with the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama to access low-cost food from the USDA and food donated through grocery stores, which is available only to Feeding America programs.

Blazer Kitchen also accepts direct product contributions. The most needed donations include healthy, shelf-stable, single-serving, microwavable (in its container) meals for the food pantry in the RNICU, plus toiletries and household cleaning products. Donations can be made between 10 a.m.- noon every other Wednesday; email blazerkitchen@uab.edu to make arrangements.