The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Lions’ Cabinet Food Pantry recently held a drive-thru food distribution for local UAPB students. Fifty students were able to drive to the university and receive boxes of food and toiletries, according to a news release.


Rita Conley, director of the UAPB Student Success Center and faculty advisor for the campus food pantry, said the event was held to support UAPB students living in households that have been negatively impacted by massive unemployment resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent well-being survey, a number of students indicated they needed assistance obtaining basic essentials, she said.


“Jefferson County is considered one of the top food-insecure counties in Arkansas – and this was before the pandemic,” Conley said. “Even though our target audience for the distribution was local UAPB students, we hope the event helped address the overall need in our community.”


The boxes the students received contained canned and boxed food, as well as fresh university-grown sweet potatoes, a source of Vitamin A and fiber. In addition to instructions on how to store the sweet potatoes, they were also given two recipes.


“The event was an opportunity to provide essential toiletry items as well,” Conley said. “In March, we received a donation of hundreds of toiletries and personal care products from Pleasant Grove Baptist Church here in Pine Bluff. However, we were unable to distribute all the items before the students left campus because of the COVID-19 outbreak. This was a perfect opportunity to ensure students received the donations.”


Teki Hunt, director of UAPB 4-H Youth Development Program, said volunteers at the event included staff of the Student Success Center, Collegiate 4-H Club members, and members of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc.


“Volunteers wore masks and gloves,” she said. “Students were able to stay in their vehicles while the boxes of food and bags of toiletries were put in their trunk or an empty seat. A few students walked or rode bikes from Piney Woods Apartments, and volunteers delivered the boxes to their apartments.”


Conley said the students who came to the distribution event expressed their gratitude and asked when subsequent food donations would be held. Distribution events are planned in the upcoming months once the pantry is restocked.


“This paraphrased quote by Martin Luther King explains the mission of the Lions’ Cabinet Food Pantry,” Conley said. “‘We believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture of their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.’”


Individuals can donate recyclable shopping bags or one or more of the following non-perishable food items ranked by order of need: peanut butter, canned fruit and easy-open fruit snacks, microwavable food items, hot and cold beverage mix, breakfast cereals and bars, canned tuna and chicken, on-the-go snacks, pasta, pasta sauce, condiments, box dinners, potato mix, cornbread mix and canned vegetables.


To donate to the food pantry or for details on donation events, contact Rita Conley at 870-575-8540 or conleyr@uapb.edu or Teki Hunt at 870-575-8368 or huntJimenezt@uapb.edu.


The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers all of its Extension and Research programs and services without discrimination.


— Will Hehemann is a writer/editor at the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.