Alumna Katie Jones fights food insecurity with Feed-A-Bull

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Katie Jones, registered dietitian at USF’s Student Health Services and Center for Student Well-Being, was providing nutrition counseling for students when she noticed that some of her recommendations on how to maintain balanced eating habits were not feasible and too expensive for some students.

Jones would often hear students say “Well I don’t know how to afford this?” or “I don’t have money” during her one-on-one nutrition sessions.

These students were facing a growing problem in the U.S. – food insecurity, the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.

A graduate of the USF College of Public Health, Jones began to research food pantries and ways to help students who are food insecure. She found that there are now over 300 universities across the nation with on-campus food pantries and knew that she needed to bring this to USF.

Working with her colleague Callie Nettles, case manager with USF’s Student Outreach and Support, they decided to create USF’s Feed-A-Bull. The on-campus food pantry provides 10-15 pounds of food per week to alleviate food hardship and hunger among enrolled USF students in need. Students also receive educational resources on balanced eating, recipe ideas and tips on how to make the most of their trips to the grocery store.

Alumna Katie Jones (left) with Feed-A-Bull volunteers. (Photo courtesy of USF Wellness)

Alumna Katie Jones (from the left) with Callie Nettles and Maya Baram, president of Feeding America USF. (Photo courtesy of Katie Jones)

To get Feed-A-Bull up and running, Jones reached out to and formed a partnership with the student organization Feeding America USF (FAUSF) and Feeding America Tampa Bay.

Feeding America Tampa Bay was able to provide Feed-A-Bull with their initial food donation and FAUSF is in charge of staffing the pantry with volunteers, picking up weekly donations and helping with Feed-A-Bull food drives.

Since opening its doors in the fall of 2015, USF’s Feed-A-Bull has had over 500 visits and provided more than 6,000 pounds of food to students struggling with food insecurity.

“Last fall we opened and it’s been utilized more than we anticipated. It’s great that we are serving them, but to me personally it’s sad to think that so many actually need it,” Jones said.

Feed-A-Bull is also working on a partnership with USF Dining Services so that they are able to provide students with not just non-perishable food products but fresh produce as well.

“I’m trying to keep it up with USF Dining so that we have produce from them every week,” Jones said. “It would be great!”

After they received the initial set up and supply of food from Feeding America, Feed-A-Bull has been for the most part self-sufficient off of food-drives and charitable donations.

Many students are also beginning to bring in donations at the end of the semesters too as they are cleaning out their dorms or apartments for summer and winter break.

Feed-A-Bull pantry. (Photo by USF Oracle/Russell Nay)

Feed-A-Bull pantry. (Photo by USF Oracle/Russell Nay)

Jones credits the USF COPH for helping her form a different mindset and approach for helping students and providing her with the tools and skills which allowed her to change her practice so that she could have a larger scale impact on the community.

Graduating from Georgia Southern University with a bachelor’s in nutrition, Jones said that most of her experience had been working in clinics with single individuals rather than with the community as a whole.

In order to expand her knowledge and provide more community and population based interventions to help her in her work at USF, Jones began to look into public health and ultimately earned a master’s in public health at the USF COPH in 2013.

“The education that I received at the COPH expanded my knowledge in community based interventions, for example with Feed-a-Bull it helped me understand how to build successful community partnerships and effective programming with a focus on prevention,” Jones said. “Food insecurity is a major public health concern and the education I received at COPH provided a great foundation that allowed me to effectively address the concern within my current job role. I don’t think I would have be as successful with initiating Feed-A-Bull without my degree in public health.”

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Feed-A-Bull is open on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. and Wednesdays from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. in SVC 2058. Year round monetary and food donations are accepted by Feed-A-Bull. Non-perishable food items can be donated at multiple campus locations, including the Office of Student Outreach and Support (SVC 2058) and monetary donations are accepted here. For questions or further information, please contact Feed-A-Bull at feedabull@usf.edu or 813-974-6130. Story by Caitlin Keough, USF College of Public Health

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