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Food insecurity pantry opens near Point Café

Written By Shelby Fink, Copy Editor

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A no-cost supplemental food program provided by the university, dubbed “Pioneer Pantry,” officially opened its doors Sept. 7.   

The program debuts after a year of discussing and planning from Point Park’s Department of Community Engagement.

“Pioneer Pantry is available to anyone with a current and valid Point Park ID,” department chair of Community Engagement Heather Starr-Fiedler said. “You can order twice a month and get ten items at a time.”

The Pantry’s mission is to fight back against food insecurity, a quality defined as being financially or environmentally unable to obtain food for oneself or a household.

It began with an inaugural cohort from a group of doctoral students from the 2015-2016 school year and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank (GPCFB). When the group looked at the demographics of the GPCFB, they were surprised at the results which lead to more research of food insecurity.

This allowed doctoral student Veronika Panagioutou to present her findings and ideas at the University of Nebraska Omaha last October. While she was there, she saw the university had a food insecurity pantry and inspired her to start a similar program back home.

“I see the pantry, and immediately I start thinking about how I could bring this Point Park,” Panagioutou said. “So I came back, talked to Dr. Fiedler, and that was basically the spark that started Pioneer Pantry.”

In the fall of 2016, Panagioutou distributed a survey to Point Park students through Student Affairs looking into the campus’s demographics and general need.

Around 400 responses revealed that over one-third of students indicated that at some point during their time on campus, they didn’t know where they were going to get their next meal. In that same survey, 60.5 percent of students agreed that Point Park needed a food pantry.

In the past two years, only two other colleges in the Pittsburgh area have acted to combat food insecurity: Community College of Allegheny County and the University of Pittsburgh, both of which are affiliated with the GPCFB.

“Within the first day of the food bank being open, close to 20 students already submitted a form,” Vice President of Student Affairs Dean Paylo said. “Students, faculty and staff should all continue to promote the pantry.”

The pantry is solely based on donations and purchasing food from the GPCFB. The Department of Development and Alumni Relations filled the first stock of the pantry by providing the funds and the means to obtain food.

Students interested in donating can find large barrels labeled “Pioneer Pantry” set out in front of the pantry next to the Point Café on the second floor of Thayer Hall.

Fiedler, Panagioutou and Paylo all strongly encourage student organizations and clubs to take part and host their own food drive for the pantry.

Students can place orders at pioneerpantry.org and will receive a text when the order is ready.

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