Campus News

Kroger Invests in UK Big Blue Pantry, Student Wellness

Detail of Big Blue Pantry wall with Kroger logo and writing
Detail of yogurt in cooler
Detail of Big Blue Pantry goods
Detail of fruit in basket
Detail of Big Blue Pantry wall with logo

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 29, 2020) — The Kroger Company has joined forces with the University of Kentucky to invest as an official partner of the Big Blue Pantry — a campus facility that provides food insecure students with nonperishable goods.

The mission of the Big Blue Pantry is to provide support and awareness for food insecure students across campus, as well as to educate the broader student population about hunger. Any UK student, with a valid UK ID, is eligible to receive goods from the pantry.

Studies have indicated food insecurity is a challenge on campuses across the country and at UK. The Big Blue Pantry and Kroger are working to change that on UK's campus.

“In 2017, Kroger launched our Zero Hunger, Zero Waste commitment. This commitment focuses on ending hunger in the communities we serve and eliminating waste from our stores by 2025. It is shocking that 40% of the food produced in the U.S. goes uneaten, yet 1 in 8 Americans struggle with hunger. We all must do our part to change this,” said Erin Grant, Kroger corporate affairs manager.

Kroger has invested greatly into the program, updating the physical space by installing new shelving, décor, donating both refrigerator and freezer units, as well as office furniture and storage. These changes enable the pantry to better serve students as well as foster a more welcoming environment.

“Kroger being willing to invest in our pantry shows the students that the community cares about them and wants to help them meet their goals of being successful college students without having to worry about skipping or missing meals,” said Abby Essinger, assistant director of UK's Center for Community Outreach, which operates the pantry.

Because of the support from Kroger, the pantry is now able to offer a larger assortment and variety of goods, including a greater inventory of both dry and cold-storage items.

The collaboration strengthens the university’s commitment to basic needs and builds upon their strong relationship with Kroger.

“As we worked with Kroger on the naming of the football stadium, it was important to both of us that the relationship extend to campus — aligning the vision and mission of the university with Kroger to the betterment of student, faculty and staff,” said Kim Shelton, president of UK Sports & Campus Marketing at JMI Sports.

The Big Blue Pantry opened its doors in 2014, annually continuing to grow in number of visitors and meals provided. The pantry is located in the basement of the White Hall Classroom Building and is funded by third parties and monetary donations.

To make a donation to the Big Blue Pantry Gift Fund or to learn more, please visit or contact Abby Essinger at

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.