If you’ve been to the University of Florida lately, you may have noticed the Alan and Cathy Hitchcock Field & Fork Pantry. Located just south of the “French fry” statues in the heart of campus, the Hitchcock Pantry is a conveniently accessible resource for UF community members experiencing food insecurity. Operated by the UF Dean of Students Office, it regularly offers fresh, campus-grown produce from the UF/IFAS Field & Fork Farm and Gardens, pantry staples, foods of diverse cultures, foods that accommodate people with dietary restrictions, and quality protein options.
How It Happened
In 1945, Alan Hitchcock’s grandfather opened Hitchcock’s Market grocery store. Later, Alan and his father worked to grow the company into 12 successful stores in North Central Florida. Throughout this career in the grocery business, Alan and his wife, Cathy, had a longstanding philanthropic relationship with the greater community, steadfastly supporting those in need. After retiring, they decided to assist UF’s efforts to fight food insecurity. They chose to make a leadership gift that enabled expansion of the pantry.
Alan is an alumnus of the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS), graduating in 1974 with a degree in food and resource economics.
“The University of Florida has always been very special to me,” said Alan. “Having the opportunity to grow up in the area and always be a big fan but also attend and graduate from here, we feel really great about being able to offer this.”
“If it were not for Alan and Cathy Hitchcock’s support of the Field & Fork Program, I think the pantry might not even exist,” said Anna Prizzia, Field & Fork Program Director and UF Campus Food Systems Coordinator. “They showed up at a time when we were really trying to figure out how we would fund a physical space. They came when it was most needed.”
During the planning process, Alan further lent his expertise, advising on how to equip and organize the expanded space. To Alan, the pantry feels like an extension of the grocery business, and he enjoys seeing food being shared there.
A Lasting Impact
The Hitchcock Pantry opened in 2015 following renovations to an unused chiller plant funded by the Dean of Students Office, the Division of Student Life, and UF/IFAS. Since the expansion in 2019, it has distributed an average of 160,000 pounds of fresh and non-perishable food and hygiene items per year.
The Hitchcock Pantry goes beyond handing out food: cooking demonstrations and recipe ideas introduce students to ways to prepare seasonal vegetables – like okra, kale, bok choy, and sweet potatoes – that they may not have tried to cook before.
Not only does the Hitchcock Pantry give students in need healthy nutrition options, but it also helps to provide them peace of mind. It’s hard to pay for classes when it means you can’t pay for groceries.
“The need for nutrition and sustenance for everyone is critical,” Cathy emphasized. “It was a good fit for us in terms of being able to help in some small way.”
Anna saw the Hitchcock’s passion for serving those in need firsthand. “Sometimes they would show up with a truckload of fresh bread, because the shelves were a little empty and we were in need of bread. They were ready to jump in and help in any way that they possibly could, and I think was a real testament to their spirit and their commitment to making it a success.”
This September, Alan and Cathy Hitchcock were presented with the CALS Alumni & Friends Award of Distinction in recognition of their outstanding contributions to UF/IFAS, CALS and the UF Field & Fork Campus Food Program.
For ways you can support the Alan and Cathy Hitchcock Pantry and the Field & Fork Campus Food Program, please visit fieldandfork.ufl.edu.
The “How it Happened” series showcases the transformational gifts made by donors to UF/IFAS during the University of Florida’s Go Greater Campaign. To learn more about creating your own impact through UF/IFAS programs with a charitable gift, please visit our website at give.ifas.ufl.edu or call the IFAS Advancement office at 352-392-1975.