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JFCS Visits Harrisburg to Advocate for Hunger Free Campuses

Last month, JFCS staff members Teresa Rodgers (Program Assistant, JFCS Squirrel Hill Food Pantry) and Abbey Myers (Resource Specialist, JFCS Squirrel Hill Food Pantry) joined over 300 students and professionals from around PA to attend the Swipe Out Hunger Lobby Day in Harrisburg to advocate for college campuses to be hunger-free. The Hunger Free Campus bill aims to encourage and support colleges and universities to implement policies and resources that will ensure that no student has to go hungry. 

Meeting the Policymakers

Teresa and Abbey met with Stephen Bruder, Policy Director staff for Senator Jay Costa and Sally Keaveney, Director of Research for the PA Senate and State Representative Tim Twardzik. They discussed the importance of funding for refrigeration for in-campus pantries, SNAP enrollment encouragement, nutrition education, and readily available free food as important ways to improve food security for students. They also heard PA First Lady Frances Wolf speak about hunger-free campuses and the importance of improving food security among college students.

The Need for Hunger-Free Campuses

JFCS Squirrel Hill Food Pantry has served several college students throughout the years, which is why they see this bill as important. The Hunger-Free Campus bill aims to help create meal plans where students can donate extra meal swipes for students in need. The bill would also establish and/or improve on-campus food pantries, as well as provide funding for a staff member dedicated to helping food insecure students connect to resources such as SNAP applications and more. “Campuses who work to implement these measures will become certified hunger-free campuses, giving them access to grants to support their efforts,” Abbey explained. 

This bill would seriously improve many students’ access to food in Pittsburgh. “We help when we can, but a lot of students live far away,” said Teresa. “We give almost 25 pounds of food for a one person household–it’s a lot to carry on the bus. I want them to have what they need on campus.” Teresa also explained that for students, they’re able to give shelf-stable products but don’t have as much as they need to adequately support students because of the pantry’s focus on fresh produce–much of which students may not be able to use. “It would be great if there were college pantries that could focus on healthy alternatives to fresh produce that work for students’ lifestyles,” she expressed.

Making an Impact

Both Teresa and Abbey agreed that hearing firsthand accounts from students at the event was impactful for everyone. “It was eye-opening listening to their stories, hearing students talk about their situations,” Abbey said. “Students are so diverse and the needs are diverse. We often think of students as being in their early 20s, but a lot of the students facing food insecurity were people going back to school, single mothers, and international students.” 

“Across Pennsylvania, more than 1 in 3 college students fights hunger while earning their degree,” Teresa stated. “It would be great if this passed so it doesn’t have to be this way for students!”