6 women smiling

Student Athletes collaborate with neighboring organizations to feed local children

“We work together for the betterment of our University, the communities we serve, and the world.” 

The above quote is one of Penn State’s Core Values.  Following this value, Penn State Greater Allegheny student athletes are always looking for ways to give back to the community.   According to their website, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank serves nearly 360,000 people annually, including 76,000 children. 37,600 unique clients are served in a typical week.

When they heard about some local kids who were going hungry on the weekends, the athletes knew they wanted to help. They became involved in a backpack program, partnering with UPMC McKeesport Hospital and the Wilmerding YMCA, which provides food to local disadvantaged children.

A different group of student athletes from the campus goes each week to the hospital to pack backpacks full of food for the kids.

Workers from the Wilmerding YMCA, which sponsors childcare sites at two local apartment complexes, noticed that many of the young children were especially hungry on Mondays.  Many of them had little or no food to eat over the weekends.  So the YMCA decided to provide food that the kids can take home each Friday, so they would have enough food for the weekend.  

men help pack backpacks for kids

Penn State Greater Allegheny's baseball team helps pack backpacks with food for local children.

Image: Penn State

Blake Flocker, a Penn State Greater Allegheny baseball player originally from McKeesport High School, said, “I love helping out.  It is great to give back to my community.  I am proud to be from McKeesport and will continue to help my community in whatever way I can.”

“We are happy to be able to help hungry kids in the McKeesport community,” added Alex Myers, from Norwin High School, also a campus baseball player.  “We are lucky to have what we do, and it is our duty to give something back.”

The hospital and the YMCA purchase the food, aiming to keep it nutritious and child-friendly. The athletes go to the hospital to pack the food into bags.  Each bag is filled with foods such as fruit, juice, pasta, cereal, and healthy snacks.  

About 65 bags are filled each week.  The YMCA delivers the food to the local childcare sites.  

According to Just Harvest, a local organization that works to end hunger and poverty in our region, as of 2012, there were 1.2 million people living in Allegheny County of which nearly 1 in 7 (171,000 people) are facing food insecurity. 43,000 of them are children.  Hungry children cannot focus in school and are three times more likely to be suspended from school.  Penn State Greater Allegheny Athletic Director Korie Morton-Rozier said, “I believe that giving back to the community is very important.  We want the student athletes to understand the importance of what they are doing and how the backpacks will improve local kids’ lives.  We are thrilled to work with McKeesport Hospital and the YMCA.”

According to the YMCA’s website, the YMCA responds to society’s most pressing needs by developing innovative, community-based solutions to help those in need to reach their full potential.  UPMC McKeesport Hospital states that being the region’s healthcare leader is both a privilege and a responsibility.  UPMC is dedicating resources to make a substantial impact on the well-being of the people who live here, work here, learn here, and raise their families here.   The backpack program certainly reflects these goals of both of these organizations as well as the values of Penn State.