Food insecurity has long been known to affect college students across the nation. It is no surprise that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has only made the issue worse. In fact, a March 2021 study done by The Hope Center shows food insecurity increased by 29% at four-year institutions—by 39% at two-year institutions.
As the demand increases, Penn State Altoona is working to meet its students’ most basic needs. In addition to the Ivyside Eats food pantry, the college kicked off a sister program this semester.
A small farmer’s market has been established to offer students fresh produce and vegetables on top of the non-perishables already available through Ivyside Eats.
The idea stemmed from two projects facilitated by Penn State Altoona’s Community-based Studies (CBS) program. One increased the visibility of Ivyside Eats, while the other is an ongoing partnership with Altoona Family Physicians and The Society of St. Vincent de Paul/Monastery Community Gardens of Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania.
The collaboration provides items from the Monastery Gardens to primarily low-income and at-risk populations in the city of Altoona. Tom Shaffer, coordinator of CBS, arranged for the Gardens to donate additional fresh produce to the college as another free option for students experiencing food insecurity.
Students can choose from an array of seasonal fruits and vegetables each week. Although there is no limit, they are asked to take only what they can use. Faculty and staff are invited to take leftover items at the end of each market event to avoid waste.
Sue Patterson, director of Student Diversity and Inclusion Programming, oversees the market as well as the food pantry. She plans to offer recipes and suggestions on how to cook the produce and incorporate them into meals.
“Ivyside Eats has been able to assist in meeting needs for many students by providing non-perishable items along with toiletries, household goods, school supplies,” she states. “This addition is a trial run. I am hopeful it will be something that takes off.”
Patterson also hopes that she can eventually incorporate farmer’s market produce into the Ivyside Eats online order form, which students can currently use for the pantry’s non-perishable items.
Shaffer is pleased the initiative could be implemented at the college. “Translating ideas into concrete actions and sustainable projects is always a fascinating challenge. When these projects involve multiple partners, the level of challenge rises—but then, so does the satisfaction when community partners remain invested. What is unique, and particularly fulfilling about this initiative, is seeing direct and immediate results from our efforts.”
The market currently runs Wednesdays from 1:00-3:00 p.m. in the Laurel Pavilion.
Ivyside Eats is located in Edith Davis Eve Chapel room 112. Its hours and more information are available on the Ivyside Eats site. Ivyside Eats also accepts donations. Contact the pantry at [email protected].