“No person Ought to Bend Over Backward”: Tackling Meals Insecurity in Pitt

Food insecurity is not a distant problem that simply means people don’t have enough to eat, according to Annie Ryan. She said it was a more complex topic on Pitt’s campus as well.

“I define food insecurity as any type of instability in accessing healthy, adequate, and consistent nutrition, whether due to time, money, distance, or other constraints,” Ryan, Plate Chair des Plant2Plate school garden and a junior environmental science major said. “Food insecurity affects students in Pitt and across the country quite a lot.”

According to a report that the university Basic Campus Needs Committee published March 2021, 43% of Pitt students who completed a campus-wide survey experienced some form of basic needs during the ongoing pandemic, and 18% of respondents said they had low or very little food insecurity in the past 30 days be . The report says the food insecurity problem is particularly widespread during the pandemic – leaving many Pitt students ineligible for access to healthy and sustainable food.

Students face food insecurity in a number of ways, including worrying about running out of food, unable to afford balanced meals, skipping meals, or being reduced in size to save money, the report said.

There are a variety of resources available for students facing food insecurity on campus, including the Pitt Pantry, the food assistance program, Plant2Plate Garden and others.

Ryan said Plant2Plate enables students and community members to grow their own groceries in the organization’s backyard on Oakland Avenue and promote a “love of the outdoors, urban gardening and food.” The food is distributed to volunteers or donated to the Pitt Pantry.

She said food insecurity on Pitt’s campus could look like just buying a buttered Einstein Bros. Bagel bagel instead of a real meal, or rationing meals.

“Diet is so central to our well-being that food insecurity can affect every part of your life, from your mood to your academics to your social life,” said Ryan.
The Pitt Pantry is another group committed to helping students through their partnership with the Bellefield Presbyterian Church. By the foods they get from the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Donations from local organizations and purchases in stores, Students can place orders for dinner twice a week, said Teja Pulavarthi, vice president of grocery procurement.

Anita Bargaje, president of the Pitt Pantry and senior computational biology major, said the pantry provides students with healthy food options to help tackle food insecurity.

“The Pitt Pantry aims to combat food insecurity by serving as an on-campus pantry for the distribution of food and household items,” Bargaje said. “In addition to our sales activities, the Pitt Pantry continues to promote awareness of the existence of food insecurity and what our communities can do to combat this prevalence.”

Ciara Stehley, Pantry Coordinator and Sustainability Program Assistant at PittServes Office, based on data from the campus basic needs survey and of the Observations of those who work in the Pitt Pantry can help students perform better in school when they are not faced with food insecurity.

“Both national and anecdotal data show that when students can meet their basic needs, including nutritional needs,” said Stehley, “they are able to perform better at school and at work, and in improved physical and mental health.” to report a higher overall quality. “of life.”

Pulavarthi, a senior biology student, said the Pitt Pantry ensures food is provided that accommodates dietary restrictions. Pulavarthi said students can use contactless pickup for their orders or sign up for physical shopping appointments in the pantry. Ryan helped set up the pantry’s online ordering system last year through a project-based course with Ward Allebach, a lecturer in geology and environmental science.

Ryan said it was important to get involved Discussing food accessibility in Oakland and on all college campuses so students don’t have to struggle with it in addition to schoolwork.

“I think we’re creating a culture that is redefining expectations of college food. It doesn’t just have to be frozen pizzas and quick, unhealthy meals, ”said Ryan. “Proper nutrition is so important and shouldn’t be a compromise to be a college student. We want to strengthen these ideas by improving the Pitt community’s access to products. “

Stehley said students who have no meal plans and are faced with food insecurity due to an emergency can use the Meal Assistance Program as a resource.

“This program has two components – eligible students receive short-term assistance in the form of 15 meal passes, and all applicants receive a tailored list of longer-term resource recommendations based on their unique situation,” said Stehley.

Rachel Vertucci, vice president of events, marketing and public relations for the Pitt Pantry board of directors and junior specialization in supply chain and global management, said students from other groups like the Food Restoration Heroes, Share excess and the Pitt Green Fund.

Students can also rely on the Manual of campus and community-based resources that provide food, shelter, employment, and health care.

Ryan said food insecurity is widespread among college students and it is important that they know their experiences are valid. She added that food insecurity has varying degrees of severity and that students should use the resources available regardless of the severity.

“I think it’s really important that students know about food insecurity, that it’s so much more common than we think, and that it doesn’t have to be extreme to deserve help,” said Ryan. “It’s often lumped together with what we accept as the ‘brute college student lifestyle,’ but it’s really important for people to know that nobody has to bend back to find food, the diet to interfere with or stress out about the next meal. “

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