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Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

University receives state grant to address campus food insecurity

Photo by Michelangelo Pellis
Outside the Pioneer Pantry, where a new free market is planned to be installed next semester with new state grant.

The “PA Hunger-Free Campus Grant” of a $34,100 reward from the state to the university will allow the Office of Community Engagement to provide a free walk through market or free grocery store to students to expand the Pioneer Pantry. 

The grant will also allow the office to provide an outdoor garden and cooking classes to students.

Heather Starr Fiedler, the Chair of the Office of Community Engagement, applied for the grant based on her plan to combat food insecurity in our campus community. 

According to Starr Fiedler’s grant proposal, the Pioneer Pantry expansion is three-fold. It begins with an upgrade of the Pioneer Pantry itself.  

“One of my dreams has always been to create a little corner store that would be free for students who need it,” Starr Fiedler said. “It would be an expansion of the existing Pioneer Pantry model, so students would still be able to order and pick-up like they do already while also getting a walk-through experience like any other corner store.”

The expansion will involve the Pioneer Pantry’s existing partner, The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Starr Fiedler said that she wants this new expansion to reduce some of the stigma surrounding food insecurity.

“It will be modeled after what they’re doing at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank with what they call ‘The Market,” Starr Fiedler said. “They have a mini grocery store where people can shop for what they want, but it’s free.”

Kenzie Gorman, a freshman psychology major, would utilize the market, despite living off campus.

“It’s an inconvenience to go out grocery shopping Downtown; Target doesn’t offer a lot and it’s expensive,” Gorman said. “For students [like me] with a car, it’s possible to drive out to a different area to shop, but that’s such a hassle.”

Despite distance and price, class schedules are also a hindrance for students trying to feed themselves.  

“Some days I’m in class until four, and I feel like I don’t have enough time or energy to come up with a whole meal,” Gorman said.  

Riley Lilley, a freshmen psychology major, said she finds the prospect of a walk through market with free groceries and produce open to students exciting.  

“Immediate yes; I wouldn’t even feel weird about taking advantage of that because everyone needs food,” Lilley said. “Time wise, there are days when I only get one real meal and it’s just not enough fuel. The dining hall is open at inconvenient times, and everything Downtown is so expensive.”

Starr Fiedler said she hopes that this new walk-through experience will be located on the first floor of Thayer in an office space. The free market will be physically larger than the current closet that the Pioneer Pantry resides in. Starr Fiedler also said she hopes that it will also allow for the pantry to have a larger impact in the future.

“The space I’m hoping to get has some external access, so we would even be able to expand to serve some of our Downtown neighbors who may be unhoused,” Starr Fiedler said. “Which has been one of my hopes for the future. This would allow us to do that.”

Students will have the opportunity to enter a naming contest for the Pioneer Pantry store. 

The second part of the expansion the “PA Hunger-Free Campus Grant” will fund is to be an outdoor garden: The Pioneer Patch. 

“This garden has been in the works for five to seven years at least; it’s an idea that just keeps coming back up,” Starr Fiedler said. “Finding space and money just proved to be difficult. Now we actually have the ability to do it.”

The Office of Community Engagement will be partnering with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy to bring the garden to fruition and to help maintain it. 

Starr Fiedler said she wants the garden to be an opportunity for students to get involved and come together while offering a beneficial resource to the community. 

In addition to the free market and outdoor garden, this grant will also fund cooking classes for students through Cafe Momentum according to Starr Fiedler.

“Last year we partnered with Cafe Momentum to have them come and teach some things [to students] when we got the equipment for The Nook,” Starr Fiedler said. “I would like to expand on that partnership and have students being trained at Cafe Momentum offer lessons to some of our students.”

The Pioneer Pantry will hold four pop-up events this semester. The first one is today, Wednesday, January 31, on the second floor of Lawrence Hall, and the three projects funded by the “PA Hunger-Free Campus Grant” are expected to begin this fall.

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