UAB’s Blazer Kitchen provides food and compassion to Blazers in need

Tamika Bright possesses an alert and honest sense of joy. It’s a joy that brightens her laughter and infuses her with what she describes as a “personality-plus,” allowing her to choose happiness over adversity, of which she has seen a lot, the scars she proudly wears on her hand telling a story of both pain and faith.

Tamika Bright outside of Blazer Kitchen

In 2015, Bright had only been working at UAB for a week before a tragic accident changed her life. In an attempt to put out an accidental grease fire at her home, Bright received third degree burns to the right side of her body, leaving her badly injured.

“I told my doctor, I need this job,” said Bright, an administrative support specialist in the department of environmental health and safety. “So, I went back to work with my right hand and foot wrapped up.”

Even though UAB had held her job, the injury had put Bright in a difficult financial position. So, at the recommendation of her manager, she applied to receive support from UAB’s Employee Emergency Assistance Program, a Benevolent Fund program aimed at helping employees with unforeseen medical costs with funds donated by other UAB employees.

“It was just amazing,” says Bright. “They helped with bills, and it was just deposited into my account.” The support she received alleviated some of the stress on her and her family through her injury and recovery and inspired a desire to give back: “I was thinking to myself, if I could give [the Benevolent Fund] a million dollars, I would.”

From then on, Bright became a steadfast donor to the Benevolent Fund, always willing to give to make sure others had similar care, not knowing how soon she’d need the Benevolent Fund’s help again.

Blazers Against Hunger is a one-day giving event on November 18 to fight food insecurity at UAB by supporting Blazer Kitchen, a food pantry that provides nutritious fresh, frozen, and nonperishable food, as well as personal hygiene items, to qualifying students, employees, and select groups of patients. You can find more information and support a fellow Blazer in need by giving at

One of the most intimately impactful programs run by the Benevolent Fund is Blazer Kitchen, an on-campus food pantry serving food-insecure students, employees, and patients in nine UAB Medicine clinics. Unlike some food pantries, where a pre-selected box of canned goods is the only option, Blazer Kitchen allows shoppers to select their own fresh foods at no cost, in an effort to eliminate hunger in the UAB community.

It’s this dedication to helping fellow Blazers during difficult times that led to the Blazer Kitchen becoming a resource for Tamika Bright and her family.

A single mother of two after the passing of her husband, Bright, like many, was hit especially hard during the height of the pandemic—even though her older daughter was away in college, she was still providing for herself and a 17-year-old athlete son.

“There were times where it was between choosing gas or eating,” she explains. “As moms, we look out for our kids, and I didn’t want my son to go hungry.”

Thankfully, Bright was able to turn to Blazer Kitchen to make sure that she and her son had enough healthy food on their table, especially fresh fruit, which is a favorite of her son.

“Honestly, when you go to Blazer Kitchen, it’s slightly overwhelming. You have three sections of food and choices, and everyone is so nice and sweet. It’s an amazing resource, and you don’t have to pay,” says Bright. “I tell everyone I can about it. UAB provides for you.”

"Give because you never know who you are helping or saving.” – Tamika Bright

Hunger can affect anyone, and its effects can be mentally, physically, and emotionally damaging. A study shared by the NIH shows that for young people especially, recurring periods of insufficient nutrition can lead to damaging chronic conditions later in life, such as cardiovascular disease, asthma, and even depression. And when viewed in the context of school, a survey of American college students conducted by the Community College Equity Assessment Lab showed that those experiencing food-insecurity were nearly three times as likely to drop out of school than their food-secure peers.

“Having a resource for members of the UAB community to receive both the nourishment and the compassion that they need is a life-changing option for many,” explains Benevolent Fund manager Lisa Higginbotham. “But it’s even more powerful knowing that the support Blazer Kitchen provides is funded by donations from the UAB community." And the Blazer Kitchen is always in need of help to reach even more Blazers struggling with hunger.

“There was a time that I did not need Blazer Kitchen, but I have always given to the Benevolent Fund, and I will never shy away from that,” Bright says. “You never know what people are going through, and I’ve always been a person to smile through my pain. So, when you think you’re not helping someone you really are.”

“We could have easily been in the hunger pile. But we weren’t. Blazer Kitchen saved me. It saved my family,” added Bright. “We could have easily been in the hunger pile. But we weren’t. Blazer Kitchen saved me. It saved my family.”

If you would like to support UAB employees, like Tamika Bright, as well as students and patients in need, we encourage you to support Blazer Kitchen by donating during its annual one-day giving event, Blazers Against Hunger, on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. Gifts made prior to Nov. 18 will also count toward the total.

You learn more or make your gift at: