A UAB student sits in a classroom. He’s hungry—really hungry. And he doesn’t know where his next meal is coming from.

That means he’s not concentrating on the lessons being taught. Instead, he’s trying to figure out how to find dinner later—and what that dinner might be.

If he’s not concentrating, then he’s not going to do well in class. He might even fail.

If he fails, he’ll lose his financial aid.

If he loses his financial aid, he’ll have to drop out of school—and he can barely afford to make ends meet as it is.

That’s the domino effect food insecurity can have, says Debbie Morgette, UAB assistant director of student outreach and coordinator for Blazer Kitchen at the Hill Student Center. If you take hunger out of the equation, “students can focus more on academics, which helps us retain them at UAB,” she says. “Blazer Kitchen lets them be comfortable in the fact that they can always come here to get something to eat. They don’t have to be hungry.”

Thirty-six percent of UAB students surveyed by the School of Public Health in 2017 reported having low food security, meaning they sometimes ran out of food or that they were maintaining a low-quality diet.

Blazer Kitchen, an on-campus food pantry, addresses that food insecurity by providing food assistance to students, employees, and patients in need at two locations. About 50 students visit the Hill Student Center location every week, and about 120 weekly shoppers visit the food pantry in Medical Towers.

And approximately 75 percent of the Blazer Kitchen budget—which helps stock 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of food weekly—comes from dollars raised during Blazers Against Hunger, an annual campus-wide online giving event, says Lisa Higginbotham, manager of UAB’s Benevolent Fund, which established Blazer Kitchen in 2017.

This year 664 donors gave $54,776, which will provide more than 10,840 meals, during Blazers Against Hunger, which was held Nov. 14 and 15.

“We want people to understand that food insecurity can happen to anyone at any time,” Higginbotham says. “Anything — a medical situation, an unexpected car repair, a car accident, — can create budget difficulties. Often the first thing people cut out is food because you don’t want to cut off your utilities. You still have to put gas in your car so you can get to work because you need the money.”

Blazer Kitchen stocks food items from fresh produce to canned and frozen goods, which it secures at a fraction of the retail price, thanks to its partnership with The Community Food Bank of Central Alabama, Higginbotham says. It also offers toiletries and household items, which it acquires mostly through UAB’s annual toiletry drive. Students also can pick up school supplies at the Hill Student Center location.

Since it opened its doors, Blazer Kitchen has served more than 100,000 meals and provided assistance to more than 580 employees and 668 students. Employees are often referred to Blazer Kitchen as part of the UAB Employee Emergency Assistance Program, which provides financial assistance to qualifying employees, explains Higginbotham. All Blazer Kitchen shoppers are asked to present their UAB ONE Card and then to complete a form to see if they qualify to receive support via The Emergency Food Assistance Program (USDA).

Blazer Kitchen also partners with 10 UAB clinics to provide assistance to patients in need. All patients complete a survey that asks questions related to food security. If a patient indicates that he or she is food insecure, they are referred to Blazer Kitchen. “We know our patients get world-class health care when they come to UAB, but it’s hard to have world-class health outcomes if you go home and don't have food in your pantry,” Higginbotham says.

 

Other ways to support Blazer Kitchen

 

Donate toiletries / household items

Blazer Kitchen can’t get the same discounted rate for toiletries and household items as they can for food goods, so items such as toothbrushes, shampoo, dish soap, and feminine hygiene products are needed.

Donations can be made every Tuesday after 12:30 p.m. or by appointment. Please email Blazer Kitchen prior to delivering donations at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

If you are shopping online and would like to ship items directly to Blazer Kitchen, please use the following address:

Blazer Kitchen
AB 330, 1720 2nd Ave. S
Birmingham, AL
35294-0103

Make a monetary donation

Give now or give at any time of year. Dollars can go further than food donations, Higginbotham says. Blazer Kitchen has a partnership with food banks to buy food items at a fraction of the typical retail cost.

To make a monetary donation, visit Giving to UAB.

Volunteer

Peak times of need are when students are away from campus—such as Thanksgiving break, winter break, and spring break.

Sign up to volunteer at uab.edu/blazerkitchen.

 

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