By Shannon Thomason

View the original article here.BAH Infograph 2 web

Celebrate Thanksgiving early by feeding the hungry in the University of Alabama at Birmingham community with just a few clicks on Thursday, Nov. 19.

Blazers Against Hunger is UAB’s major fall giving day event, taking place during National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. The one-day crowdfunding campaign will raise money for Blazer Kitchen, the on-campus food bank that serves students and employees. Blazer Kitchen also has pantry partnerships with select UAB Medicine programs for patients in need. 

Visit uab.edu/blazersagainsthunger now through Nov. 19 to donate and use the hashtag #BlazersAgainstHunger on social media. Everyone from UAB faculty, staff and students to alumni and friends is invited to participate. 

Why should you donate to Blazers Against Hunger?

More than one-third of UAB students said they were food insecure in a 2018 School of Public Health survey. It is likely that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased that number; food insecurity is intensifying as a result of the pandemic, which can impact both health and academic outcomes for students. 

“When you have all these different needs competing, that’s stressful,” said Ela Austin, Ph.D., MPH, associate professor and associate dean at the Schooof Public Health. “You end up making choices that privilege some needs. When food is a need that students have to prioritize psychologically, classwork can — and, when things are that desperate, should — take a backseat to finding food or shelter.” 

Some food-insecure students rely on their families to meet hunger needs, but that option is closed for many as a result of economic fallout due to the coronavirus pandemic. “Not only are more college students personally out of work, but so are their families,” Austin pointed out.  

BAH Visits UPDATEDVisits to the student pantry in Hill Student Center have been up in recent months compared to 2019, says Jonathan Adams, director of Student Conduct and Outreach. Student Affairs reported 177 visits in May, 203 in June and 223 in July, compared to 69, 126 and 105 in 2019, respectively. In the first 12 days of August 2020, 98 visits were counted, while 90 were tallied for the entire month in 2019. Support from the community is needed to help combat food insecurity in students during this time. 

Donations will help the Blazer Kitchen offer fresh and nonperishable foods to those on campus faced with food insecurity. Donations are accepted and encouraged, and drives for food and household items are held on campus throughout the year. Blazer Kitchen partners with the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama to access low-cost food, such as USDA food, food donated through grocery stores and food available only to food banks. 

Blazer Kitchen at Medical Towers, for employees and students, is open Wednesday from noon to 6 p.m. and Thursday from 8 a.m. till noon. Blazer Kitchen at Hill Student Center, for students only, is open Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Participation in Blazer Kitchen is identified on a monthly basis, based on need and food availability.

In addition to financial donations, which are put to great use with the purchasing power of the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama, Blazer Kitchen is in need of specific items, which can be found on its website. Particular needs right now are toiletry items, household cleaners and detergents, and shelf-stable foods, including canned chicken and fish, protein bars, milk, and single-serve meals.