The eating habits of young adults are often depicted in a comical light, but there’s nothing funny about food insecurity, currently affecting thousands of college students across America. Faced with the decision to either pay for food or school, many students choose to put their higher education first. While this is commendable, it also means that at any given time, an estimated 36 percent of students do not know where their next meal will come from.
Clearly, hunger is a real problem for today’s students, including those at Penn State Harrisburg. The college’s commitment to providing a supportive environment for its students has gone one step further with the opening of the WE cARE food pantry in August. Organizers of the pantry hope that it will alleviate some of the financial stress faced by students on campus by providing a place for them to have safe access to food.
Ashley Schools, a financial coordinator in the Office of Student Life and Multicultural Programming and one of the principal organizers for the WE cARE food pantry, recounted a personal encounter with a student who had to put all of her income towards paying tuition and received very little support from her family. “It broke my heart,” Schools recalled. She said it isn’t uncommon for students to prioritize rent or other expenses over daily meals.
“Sometimes, students are put into a position where they might have to pay for their books rather than pay for food, or put gas in their car, and we don’t want that happening to our students,” Schools added. “That is why we created the food pantry on campus.
WE cARE allows all students who present a Penn State id+ card to select the food they need from the pantry shelves and take it home for free, no questions asked.
Ultimately, Schools says, “Students come to Penn State Harrisburg. They’re here for their education and they shouldn’t have to deal with distractions like where they’re going to get their next meal…there’s a lot of challenges that come with being a student and eating shouldn’t be one of them. ”
The food bank is able to operate through the partnership and generous support of the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, which provides the WE cARE food pantry with donated food at 18 cents per pound. Schools says that anyone who wishes to support the pantry should do so through monetary donations, as it goes a long way in the success of the pantry operation. Donations are accepted in the Development Office (W110 Olmsted) or by contacting Jodi Grothe at [email protected] or 717-948-6316. Anyone interested in volunteering should contact the pantry by email at [email protected].
The pantry is located in Room 309, Church Hall, and is open from 3 to 5 p.m. Mondays and from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursdays.