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Food Insecurity: Learning While Starved

by Nicole Cortino

Not all students have the luxury to eat three meals a day. COVID-19 didn’t help this issue. Students are struggling to afford materials not only for academic success, but for their fundamental needs as well.

There are several departments on campus meant to help students who have difficulty sustaining themselves. The Health and Counseling Centers are confidential spaces for students struggling mentally, emotionally, or physically, who need guidance and questions answered.

Student Services can also direct students to resources if they have challenges that they don’t know how to address.

Rick Fogle, dean of Student Services, feels rewarded when helping students find or create solutions for their struggles. He noticed food insecurity was a problem for some and wanted to find an answer.

“Starting three years ago, there was an issue of students not having enough to eat. We had a couple of students homeless. Food insecurity was part of their daily life,” Fogle said.

Pitt-Greensburg staff and faculty became aware of this issue and created programs immediately, like the meal swap program, to spread awareness and help students on campus.

The meal swap program allows students to donate unused meal swipes to other students in need. Students who are struggling with food insecurity can contact Student Services to get additional meal swipes.

“We try to get faculty, staff and student leaders to share information to help us identify people who are in need,” Fogle said. “If a student was interested in finding out more about our emergency aid programs, they could email me at fogle@pitt.edu.”

Food insecurity is not the only impediment some students face. Others struggle with car payments, flat tires, textbooks, and more obstacles in their everyday lives. Students can reach out for these reasons as well and receive support and resources to help them find a solution.

Brochures of information can be found in the Office of Student Services in 219 Chambers Hall. Fogle is also emailing and mailing the information to students directly.

Students who reach out for help will most likely be directed to Fogle, and he will talk with financial aid.

“We want to make sure the student received all they were supposed to, as well as apply for everything they are eligible for,” he said. “There’s an Emergency Loan program, where a common amount would be $250, but it all depends on the situation. The student typically has a month to pay it back.”

Fogle knows there will always be projects and programs in progress to help students while they are struggling.

“Another thing we’re working on is buying small library boxes, where you can bring and take books when able to and needed. You just open it up and you take one, or you put one in. These boxes can also be used for food,” he said. “You could bring food and put it in the box and then somebody else could come by and get whatever they need.”

Fogle would like for these boxes to be set this term or as soon as possible. The best kind of food to place in these boxes are non-perishable items, such as canned goods and boxed food. Proteins such as canned tuna, almonds, cashews, beef jerky, and granola bars are very good as well.

Although there are several resources for students, they do not always reach out and ask for help when they need it.

Students should encourage their peers to seek help when they are struggling so that they can be successful and graduate on time.

Sheila Confer, EdD, director of Academic Village and instructor in Theatre Arts and First Year Studies, understands the hesitance in some students to seek help.

“I feel like sometimes, peers know what’s going on with each other, and making that jump of telling an adult; it’s difficult. Some people come to me and they say, “So if I told you I had a friend…” and that’s totally fine,” Dr. Confer said. “I’m more than comfortable to have hypothetical conversations.”

Because of this, Dr. Confer doesn’t share things students tell her with others unless necessary.

“I’m happy to not disclose that information or force someone to share that while they are trying to find help. If they do, depending on what they share, I may be mandated, because of my position, to report it,” Dr. Confer said. “But then it goes straight to Gayle and Pam, the Health and Counseling Center, and it stays confidential there.”

Fogle understands the struggle for some people to find help as well.

“The biggest problem is identifying people and encouraging them to get help,” he said. “I think students and society still put negative judgment on people. Some people do not follow through on finding help because they think they should feel ashamed.”

Fogle wants to emphasize the importance of reaching out when necessary, because that’s what Student Services are for.

“They think we think less of them,” Fogle said, “but we don’t. It’s difficult to admit you need help when you think you should fix your problems on your own, but the goal is to help these people and students.”

1 Comment on Food Insecurity: Learning While Starved

  1. Enjoyed examining this, very good stuff, appreciate it.

    Like

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