• Ruth Capistrano, Writer; Alice Sanchez

Giving Back to the Community

UNF Dining Services not only provides its students with delicious meals everyday, but is on a mission to combat food insecurity and food waste in Jacksonville by partaking in campus-wide initiatives, national campaigns, and by donating to the Lend-A-Wing food pantry and Food Fighters: Student-Powered Hunger Relief.


Before I dive into our partnership with LAW, here's a little background of who they are what they offer on campus.

The LAW food pantry was designed in 2012 with students in mind. Providing not only food and beverages, but toiletries and school supplies as well. While the pantry is most certainly helpful for students in need, LAW is open for all current UNF students. Entry into the food pantry is not need-based and the only requirement is a UNF Osprey ID. Statistics show that 50% of university students will face the challenges of food insecurity at least once in their college career. For an institution that enrolls about 17,000 students, about 8,500 students could benefit greatly from the LAW pantry. There is a wide selection of food to choose from at LAW including breakfast items, specialty items, snack items, quick fix or five-minute meals, and fresh fruits and vegetables from UNF's very own Ogier Gardens. Having recently partnered up the UNF Recreation and Wellness Dietitians they now offer recipe ideas that promote a more healthy diet based on the items that are available at the pantry.

Allister Young, the Director of Lend-A-Wing, emphasized that the LAW pantry has “the potential to play a huge role to combat food insecurity.” The only challenge is to raise awareness and eliminate the misconception that it's only for students in need, and to instead “show how much of a resource Lend-a-Wing can be.” In order to raise awareness, LAW will be placing eight bins throughout campus and partnering with Starbucks and the Thomas G. Carpenter Library. Starting this week, the Starbucks on campus will be awarding a free drink to customers who bring in non-perishable donations. In November, a LAW bin will be placed in the library and a drawing will take place. The prizes of the drawing include two flat screen TVs and a weekend getaway at the Loft!

That being said, donations are accepted at any time, all throughout the year, and will be warmly received. If you can also help by donating your time, the LAW pantry always welcomes volunteers. For more information on how to volunteer, click here.


Annually, UNF Dining Services participates in a sustainable program known as the “Project Clean Plate.” This is a week-long initiative that takes place at the Osprey Café and raises awareness on reducing food waste and promotes other sustainable efforts. They also pledge to donate $250 to the Lend-A-Wing food pantry if there is a 10% reduction in food waste and $500 if 15% of food waste is reduced!

This initiative gives students an opportunity to become more mindful of how much they actually eat compared to how much they fill their plates. Every year, volunteers help by entering students into a raffle to win awesome prizes if students show them that their plate was completely clean. This year we had over 600 students participate and had amazing prizes all donated from Community First Credit Union, the UNF Bookstore, the Department of Recreation and Wellness, and the Brooks College of Health.

The Osprey Cafe recorded a 13% reduction in food waste, and as promised UNF Dining Services generously donated $500 to the Lend-a-Wing pantry to help purchase foods that they feel they needed. You can always practice mindful eating and reduce food waste by taking only what you need, but make sure to keep an eye out for Project Clean Plate 2019!


Another way UNF Dining Services has given back to the college community is through the national campaign called “One Million Acts of Good”. This campaign was held in February 2018 and was sponsored by General Mills and the Ellen DeGeneres Show. This initiative took another step towards eliminating food insecurity on campus by providing non-perishable food items to UNF. They were packaged into food boxes called “MATTER boxes,” and then donated to the Lend-A-Wing food pantry on campus.

Check out this video!


UNF Dining Services also donates to another student-led organization on campus called Food Fighters: Student-Powered Hunger Relief. Food Fighters employs student volunteers to recover leftover food from Osprey Café. This dynamic group has recovered over 10,000 pounds of food since Spring 2017, which helped make over 10,000 meals for people in the community who don’t have the means of acquiring food themselves! Food Fighters works closely with the UNF Nutrition and Dietetics Department and thereby repackages and prepares the recovered food into nutritious meals that can be simply microwaved. The food is then distributed to the community by donating the meals to the Northeast Florida AIDS Network, Sulzbacher Center, and Lutheran Social Services. The emphasis on nutrition is meant to combat food insecurity and food deserts here in Jacksonville. Food deserts are urban areas that lack accessibility to stores, such as grocery stores, that provide fresh food and goods. Mary Strickland, the president of Lutheran Social Services, appreciated in particular the cooked meals that come from the Osprey Café. While of course they are grateful for any donation, prepared and cooked meals that can be heated instantly, and that most resemble a home-cooked meal are especially cherished. The recovered food that is provided by the Osprey Café is truly making a difference in the community. Food Fighters has already made a huge impact in people’s lives, and more people can always be reached. Food Fighters’ goal is to involve more student volunteers and to distribute the food to more community partners. If you are interested in volunteering, please don’t hesitate to sign up here.

It’s incredible to realize the scope of the combined efforts of UNF students with UNF Dining Services. We are changing people’s lives by fulfilling our mission and giving back to the community--both the UNF community and the Jacksonville community as a whole.

Stay Healthy, Ospreys!

#FoodPantry #FoodInsecurity #FoodFighters #LendAWing

For more information about meal plans or hours of operation, please visit dineoncampus.com/unf