SGA combats food insecurity

SGA raised funds for the Penguin Pantry with basket raffles. Photo by Molly Burke / The Jambar

By Molly Burke

Youngstown State University’s Student Government Association raised over $500 and over 100 meal swipes to combat food insecurity on campus for its annual Swipe Out Hunger Week. 

The week took place Oct. 30 to Nov. 2, but fundraising and collections concluded at SGA’s Friendsgiving celebration Nov. 16.

Swipe Out Hunger is a national nonprofit that works with colleges to implement anti-hunger programs. SGA President Alexander Papa said YSU spends its Swipe Out Hunger Week collecting unused meal swipes for YSU dining locations. 

“It originally started as a national program that a bunch of schools participate in, but you donate extra meal swipes to those in need,” Papa said. “We’ve expanded it to do some more educational programming and raise awareness about it.”

SGA also held basket raffles to fundraise for YSU’s Penguin Pantry. The pantry is located in Cushwa Hall and is run by the Office of the Dean of Students to provide free clothes, food and hygiene products to any student, faculty or staff member.

Papa said Swipe Out Hunger Week benefits YSU because Youngstown is a food desert.

“We’re technically located in what’s called a food desert — we’re not near any grocery stores or anything. So, it’s harder for students who don’t have cars, especially international students who can’t drive places to get groceries,” Papa said.

SGA hosted several events to educate the YSU community about food insecurity, including a discussion panel Oct. 30 and a hunger simulation Nov. 2. 

SGA Vice President Jordan Pintar said the simulation allowed students to understand what it’s like to experience food insecurity.

“The hunger simulation event is just a time for students to get hands-on experience and understand how … budgeting for food specifically works,” Pintar said. “I’m sure a lot of college students already know how expensive groceries are, but also having the idea of like … maybe you have a whole family to support.” 

Other Swipe Out Hunger Week activities invited the YSU community to get involved, including Craft for a Cause on Oct. 31 where attendees made tie blankets for a local shelter. 

According to Pintar, students volunteered at the Penguin Pantry on Nov. 1 to prepare it for new donations, which included over 2,000 packets of ramen and over 3,000 pieces of clothing from Greek Life organizations.

“[We had] a whole group of students come in and be able to sort through all the clothes, we sorted through all the sizes [and] we checked all the dates on the food,” Pintar said. “A lot of students that might have not known about the pantry before got a chance to learn about it … hopefully that will create a lot more volunteers on a regular basis.’ 

SGA Chief of Staff Rayvin Gorrell said it’s important to combat food insecurity and spread awareness about it on campus.

“One in three students suffer from food insecurity at least some point in their college career … that is usually at least someone you know,” Gorrell said. “It’s just really important to be able to eat and go to class. You shouldn’t have to choose between those two.” 

Anyone seeking help from the Penguin Pantry or struggling with food insecurity can contact the Office of the Dean of Students at [email protected] or call 330-941-4036.