New program helps UF students quarantined off campus continue to eat well
When Lane Washington, Ph.D., arrives at a quarantined University of Florida student’s home with a week’s supply of free groceries, the gratitude is apparent. Students welcome the diverse, nutritious meals but also the fast delivery.
“Our students truly appreciate how something that is simple but important gets taken care of so quickly,” said Washington, the director of strategic initiatives for the UF Division of Student Affairs who oversees the Food Assistance Program.
Those brief interactions also leave strong impressions on Washington. After a delivery, he heads out feeling happy and fulfilled.
“They say ‘thank you’ and genuinely mean it. That means a lot to me. I’m grateful to be part of an institution that goes to such great lengths to take care of all of our students’ needs,” Washington said.
Since late August, students who must isolate themselves have immediate, convenient access to the free Food Assistance Program run by Student Affairs.
On-campus students who have a meal plan and need to self-isolate are provided meals each day through UF’s dining vendor. The Food Assistance Program covers everyone else — quarantined students who live off campus and don’t have a meal plan.
Once a week, quarantined students can choose from a customizable list of foods that provide up to 21 meals a week. The choices include meal items and snacks and feature fresh fruits, vegetables and staples such as pasta and peanut butter. Both the food and the delivery service are free. The food is delivered within one business day of being ordered.
The goal is to make food assistance easy and efficient for quarantined students, Washington said.
“We recognize the amount of emotions they may be feeling while they are not cleared to be on campus. We give them convenient, reliable access to food,” he said.
Washington doesn’t just run the program. He also rolls up his sleeves when needed, helping to package and deliver the food. A typical day involves five to 12 orders.
Washington and a team of about six staff and students work on fulfilling orders and making deliveries. A key partner in the program is the Alan and Cathy Hitchcock Field & Fork Pantry, UF’s community food source for those in need, Washington said. The Field & Fork Pantry helps with sourcing, storing and assembling the food that is delivered to quarantined students.
Since its inception at the beginning of the fall semester, the Food Assistance Program has provided food to nearly 300 quarantined students as of Oct. 21, Washington said.
“Every student I have heard from who has received a food package is thankful and excited. One person said I made their day because we filled their order so quickly,” he said.
Worrying about how to get food while under a quarantine is a very understandable concern, Washington noted. He gets a lot of satisfaction from helping with that.
“It’s a way to ensure that students have everything they need to be secure and successful in these challenging, unprecedented times,” he said.
By Doug Bennett