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uafs supporters hold boxes of food during the fill the fridge giveaway

Photo by: Elliot Nemeth. Kara Crowley and Dawson Choate load boxes of shelf stable food into vehicles during the Fill the Fridge Thanksgiving event

Featured | NewsNovember 14, 2022

LionHeart Fills the Fridge for the Holidays

Written By: Rachel Rodemann Putman

The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith’s student led philanthropic organization LionHeart will partner with Antioch Youth and Family this week to host a continuation of the Fill the Fridge food insecurity program launched at the university this fall.

November 15 at 2 p.m., members of the UAFS community are invited to pick up a holiday edition food box to help with food insecurity during the winter months.

More than 500 boxes will be handed out at the Sebastian Commons Parking Lot on the UAFS campus, with boxes including shelf-stable food items as well as perishables such as meat, eggs, and fresh produce courtesy of Antioch.

In a gesture of gratitude, UAFS students and members of LionHeart will also assist in the annual Antioch Youth & Family Thanksgiving Giveaway, which takes place at 10 a.m. the next day, November 16, at Martin Luther King Jr., Park in Fort Smith. This annual event will provide a full thanksgiving meal to thousands of River Valley citizens.

“I am immensely grateful for the partnership between Lion Heart at UAFS and Ms. Charolette Tidwell at Antioch,” said Kara Crowley, Coordinator for Student Activities and Civic Engagement at UAFS. “The work she does changes the lives of so many people in our Fort Smith community. Providing food to people, especially during the holidays, is an act with immeasurable value.”

Throughout the year, Crowley and the LionHeart organization have overseen the distribution of thousands of pounds of food through the Fill the Fridge collaboration, which aims to eliminate the stigma that surrounds food insecurity by placing food boxes in the UAFS housing office where students -residential or not- can pick them up each week.

The Fill the Fridge program supplements the work of the Dave Stevens Lion Pride Pantry, which also gives out sacks of food, toiletries, and school supplies throughout the year to members of the UAFS community – no questions asked.

A post-pandemic report by the Forbes Advisor showed that 52 percent of food- and housing-insecure students do not apply for aid because they don’t know how.

The report also revealed that COVID-19 worsened food and housing challenges. In the fall of 2020, 34 percent of college students experienced food insecurity in the previous 30 days. Students who contracted the virus were more likely to experience food insecurity than those who did not. More than one-third of students know someone who dropped out of school because of difficulties affording food.

Members of the UAFS community who need assistance with food or personal items may contact the Dave Stevens Lion Pride Pantry at During the Fall 2022 semester, the pantry has standing open hours from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

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Rachel Rodemann Putman

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