Events for “Fall Into the Pantry” raise awareness of food insecurity on campus

Written By Diana Navarrete, For The Globe

The university’s Pioneer Pantry collaborated with a group of students in the Special Events class under Professor Camille Downing to brainstorm how to raise awareness of food insecurity and of the Pioneer Pantry itself.


Every year, the Special Events class hosts one or two special events for a chosen client. The Pioneer Pantry has been a common client for the last couple of years, hosting what used to be the grand “Chopped” event, a 20 minute live competition consisting of four teams to create a dish that would impress a selected panel of judges.


“Because of COVID we decided that was not going to work very well and that it was not really prudent to have people be on campus,” said full-time lecturer and Special Events Professor Camille Downing. “We were also concerned that we might shut down the campus.”


Students brainstormed various ideas during the very beginning of the semester to create events that would have the greatest amount of participation. To resolve any uncertainties and to host stable events, only the first kick-off event was hosted on-ground. The other two events, “Bingo Bash” on Nov. 2 and “Cozy Cooking” on Nov. 9 were held virtually.


Some challenges were faced during the planning process, for students are usually separated into three different groups: logistics, research and marketing. With all of the students working together in one classroom. Although, because of COVID-19, an addition of a new remote group was needed.


“The more we spoke and the more we said, we thought it would just be a good idea to do multiple events throughout the semester. And so, we decided to do the pop-up as the first on-ground event,” Regan Tischler, senior public relations and advertising major and count executive of the Special Events class, said. “To get the students who came a full scope of what we were doing for the pantry the whole way through.”


Fresh produce from the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, was available and free to students and staff on the second floor of Lawrence Hall in the commuter lounge for the kick-off event, “Pumpkin Palooza” and the Pioneer Pantry pop-up.


“Because I live in Boulevard, when I’m running low on flex it’s good to come here to get food to cook,” Allison Mullin, sophomore criminal justice major, said. “So, like I enjoy going to the pantry and picking up food. Not worrying about how to pay for it.”


For “Pumpkin Palooza,” students were encouraged to be the first to pick up the available 40 pumpkins and enter a pumpkin carving and decorating contest. Entries were accepted by email at [email protected] and through Instagram with the tag @PointParkPioneerPantry from Oct. 26-21. All of the 40 pumpkins were gone within the first hour.


The two winners, one for the most likes on Instagram and the other chosen by the judge, received equal prize amounts in gift cards and coupons from Chipotle and McDonald’s. All of the gift cards and coupons were solicited from the students in the Special Events class. Each student was assigned at least 5 locations to solicit gift cards from to use as prizes for the events.


The other two events for “Fall into the Pantry” were hosted virtually to facilitate the process of following COVID-19 guidelines and safety measures. On Nov. 2 was the “Bingo Bash,” a virtual bingo game with five rounds and five prizes that used both Zoom and as platforms. At the highest, about 15 students participated in the “Bingo Bash.”  


The last event was a college-friendly live cooking tutorial, “Cozy Cooking,” held on Nov. 9 on Instagram Live, featuring Jonas Prida as the chef. There was an attendance of about 15 students. Recipes for the meal and dessert used throughout the livestream were chosen for being easy to make and follow. Trivia questions were asked during breaks and four winners were rewarded with different gift cards and coupons.


A recreation competition of either the meal or dessert, even both, was encouraged to all students after the livestream for a chance to win a $25 Target gift card until Nov. 15. Winners for the recreation of “Cozy Cooking” were announced on Nov. 16.


Questions asked throughout the “Bingo Bash” and “Cozy Cooking” were facts about the Pioneer Pantry and food insecurity statistics. All events for “Fall Into the Pantry” focused on educating participating students on food insecurity and the free services offered by the Pioneer Pantry that are available to faculty and staff as well.