Lion's Pantry hosts roundtable discussion for Big 10 campus representatives

March 11, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Food security and hunger are global challenges. Across the country, students, staff, and administration are recognizing the impact of hunger on every aspect of a student’s life and are striving to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help.

One component of reducing this stigma is increasing the conversation surrounding the issue, and one way to do this is through connections with other university food pantries, all seeking to reduce these burdens for their peers. Student leaders, like William Li, a junior in the Eberly College of Science at Penn State, aimed to create a collaborative space for Big 10 university representatives to share their experiences leading food pantries, including best practices, successes and challenges, and how they have adapted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The event was a response to a critically underutilized resource, that being our peers and colleagues in the shared mission of addressing student food insecurity and poverty,” said Li, who serves as the current Lion’s Pantry director. “This issue isn't localized or specific to Penn State and our mission doesn't end at the doors of our institution. I wanted to establish a greater precedent for collaboration because the true strength of people lies in our ability to unite and achieve things that no individual could ever approach.”

Li’s efforts for this initiative, for which planning began over the summer, culminated in a Big 10 Food Pantry Roundtable on March 4. In addition to student leadership from The Lion’s Pantry, representatives from the following universities attended: University of Illinois, Purdue University, University of Maryland, College Park, University of Minnesota Twin Cities, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Iowa, Michigan State University and University of Michigan.

Each university presented the unique qualities of the services their pantries offer, including how their organizations were started, how they reach student clients in need, their volunteer structure, and how food insecurity presents itself on their campus. Keith Soster attended as a staff representative from The Maize and Blue Cupboard, the University of Michigan food pantry.

Soster, whose vested interest in serving University of Michigan students is incredibly important to the success of this pantry, shared that he attended the roundtable because it “really helped me to understand what others are doing in their community, while staying within pandemic restrictions. Food insecurity is more prevalent now than ever so learning and sharing best practices is a tremendous step towards building community locally as well as across the Big 10.”

There are many common challenges that all pantries are facing, especially in recognizing and addressing the existence of food insecurity within the larger, deeper root issues of student poverty, said Soster. This collaboration between pantries has set the stage for future conversations and the opportunity to share resources all aimed at one day eradicating student hunger.

Lion’s Pantry President Spencer Wallace, a senior studying security and risk analysis, shared that events such as this are truly invaluable.

“As student food pantries and as members of the Big 10, we all have the same goal in common, to eliminate and to mitigate student food insecurity and poverty at our schools,” said Wallace. “Each pantry has a unique and specific approach that best suits their style of operations and learning about this can be incredibly valuable for all of the schools involved. From the Penn State Lion’s Pantry perspective, there is an endless amount of information and resources that we can gather from these amazing organizations and individuals. As collaboration continues, we hope to come together as a united front and work together to benefit students all across the Big 10.”

For more information about services offered by The Lion’s Pantry, including open pantry hours and how to volunteer, visit thelionspantry.psu.edu or contact thelionspantry@psu.edu.  

Last Updated March 11, 2021