Combating food insecurity with UNF’s Lend-A-Wing food pantry

Mallory Pace, News Editor

On the first floor of the University of North Florida’s Student Union sits a room filled with food and hygiene products waiting for students to utilize at no cost. A food pantry founded by UNF students for UNF students, Lend-A-Wing is designed to combat food insecurity on campus.

LAW is a Student Government Executive Agency that has been an on-campus resource for over a decade. Through donations and trips to local wholesale stores, it provides a variety of supplies.

The shelves are restocked weekly with many food options, including but not limited to:

  • Quick snacks
  • Breakfast meals
  • Dairy and non-dairy products
  • Meat variety and meatless options
  • Fresh and canned fruits and vegetables 
  • Hygiene and feminine products
  • Bread

Students can visit the pantry once daily and are limited to two items per section, and hygiene products vary as needed. 

To be more inclusive of students’ dietary restrictions, Lend-A-Wing has increasingly offered gluten-free, organic, dairy alternatives and vegetarian and vegan options. The pantry highly encourages students to communicate their needs and what they want to see on the shelves so LAW can accommodate as many students as possible. 

“We’re here to accommodate and help students. We want to be accessible to them and let them know we’re here to help,” Emily Bennett, Lend-A-Wing’s marketing coordinator and third-year public relations student, said. “We want students to know they’re supported and they’re not alone when it comes to food security.” 

LAW Director Jalen Echenique explained that LAW’s purpose is to serve students and provide them with food security. As students, everyone understands the experience of food insecurity when funds are low and resources scarce, the third-year UNF political science student said.

“There’s a big misconception that the food pantry is only for low-income students, but we know that everyone can experience food insecurity despite their income,” they said. 

LAW knows it can be scary to ask for help when dealing with food insecurity, Echenique said, but it’s important to be vulnerable and ask for help when needed. 

Because it is a program run by students, for students, the staff understands the experience of food insecurity and students should know they’re not alone.

Students are encouraged to bring their own reusable bags for their items in exchange for an extra item of their choosing—an incentive that Echenique said contributes to LAW’s eco-friendly initiatives.  

Another initiative LAW has been exploring is creating a recipe board using ingredients that can be found in the pantry. The goal? To inspire students to make easy, nutritious meals instead of opting for quicker, less healthy meals.  

According to data found on LAW’s website, for the fiscal year of 2021, financial donations totaled over $16,000, allowing them to buy over 8,300 pounds of food. 

At the same time, 669 student visits were recorded by LAW, and it was estimated that 4,836 food, hygiene or school supply items were used by students. 

Feeding America’s Hunger in America study in 2014 found that 31% of food-insecure individuals had to choose between paying for food or education.

“When students cannot focus on their studies due to hunger, their grades suffer, and they may end up dropping out,” LAW’s website reads.


Called the ‘sister’ to LAW, Lend-A-Fit is a professional apparel closet that provides professional clothing students can keep at no cost when preparing for interviews, jobs or the career fair. Filled with clothes donated from department stores like Macy’s and JCPenney, Lend-A-Fit offers students access to dresses, blazers, ties, button-ups and more. 

LAW’s services are open to all UNF community and are open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

For more information visit Lend-A-Wing’s website or their Instagram.