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Pioneer Pantry event inspired by “Chopped”

Written By Kelsey Wolfe, Copy Editor

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School of Communication students enrolled in Camille Downing’s Special Events Planning course are raising awareness about the new Pioneer Pantry this semester.

Each semester, students who take the class are required to work as an “agency” and plan an event for a nonprofit organization. With the opening of the Pioneer Pantry, Downing saw this as an opportunity that would not only work for her class, but also help a campus organization.

“We’ve had a couple different nonprofits and this time we decided on the Pantry because it was just opening,” Downing said. “We decided that this would be more of a launch party, getting to know about the Pantry and what it’s all about.”

Heather Starr Fiedler, director of the Department of Community Engagement, spoke to the Special Events Planning students at the beginning of the semester, giving them details on the Pantry, but no clear instruction about what they should plan as an event.

“We started from scratch in this class,” junior public relations and advertising major Carrie Reale said. “We started with ‘You’re planning an event for the Pioneer Pantry,’ to developing an idea, looking at the budget, looking at our sources and what we have on campus.” 

After a lot of brainstorming, the class came to the final decision of creating the first-ever Chopped: Pioneer Pantry Edition competition.

Based on the Food Network show, the culinary event will feature four teams competing against each other to be named the best in dorm room cooking.

Teams of students will include Residence Life, Campus Activity Board, the rugby team and a fourth team of miscellaneous students.

“We wanted to find teams of people that are recognizable on campus,” Reale said.

These teams will be using food found in the Pantry to make both a main dish and a dessert with college limitations. With only a microwave to cook with, the teams are expected to get creative.

“It’s up to them to decide with the materials they have, with the food they have, what they can make realistically,” Downing said. “Part of the challenge to us from Heather was to know that there are certain limitations if you’re living in a dorm room to being able to cook and use the food that’s in the food bank.”

Senior public relations and advertising major Gigi Hoffman was part of the logistics team within the class. She says the set up of the event will be fun, but will also send a great message to students about food insecurity.

“There’s only going to be like three items in the teams’ baskets, and they’ll have about two hot plates and three microwaves,” Hoffman said. “They’re just going to have to figure out a meal with that. We’re not telling them what to make.”

“Celebrity guest judges” will judge the team’s’ creations and decide winners. Among those judges is Fiedler and her sons, as well as professors Helen Fallon and Bob O’Gara.

Aside from the main competition, information tables about the Pantry will be set up and raffle drawings will be taking place throughout the duration of the event.

Students can enter the raffle for free and increase their chances by donating nonperishable food items, signing up to volunteer, answering trivia questions or visiting other tables.   

A pre-event booth was set up outside of the Point Café Oct. 18 to provide information about both the event and the Pantry. Students who stopped by the booth were able to receive donuts and coffee donated by Dunkin Donuts.

Students of Downing’s class all said the same about the goal of the event. While it is fun, at its core, it is about raising awareness about food insecurity and the Pioneer Pantry.

“A good bit of Point Park students both on and off campus are food insecure,” Hoffman said. “Students need to be aware of that and need to understand this is an issue. It’s not embarrassing to get food from the Pioneer Pantry, it’s helpful.”

Chopped: Pioneer Pantry Edition will take place Nov. 14 from 5-7 p.m. in Lawrence Hall Lobby and is free for all students.

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