Campus helps to combat food insecurity

crowd gathered at little food pantry

Members of the Penn State Greater Allegheny community gathered to celebrate the opening of the Little Food Pantry, built to help decrease food insecurity.

Credit: Penn State

On Sept. 6, a crew at Penn State Greater Allegheny broke ground on a new community garden with the hopes of helping to combat food insecurity on campus and in the local neighborhoods.

      food in·se·cu·ri·ty

      noun   1. the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.

According to, as of 2012, nearly one in seven (171,000 people) people living in Allegheny County are facing food insecurity. Of these, 43,000 are children. A group of caring individuals at Penn State Greater Allegheny have decided that they must do something to help. 

ACE Program Director Erica Willis and Assistant Teaching Professor of Environmental Engineering Alandra Kahl wrote a grant to Walmart, and received $500 to start a community garden with the goal of helping to increase access to healthy food.

people measuring a garden

Members of the Penn State Greater Allegheny community are building a Community Garden to help eliminate food insecurity.  

Credit: Penn State

Willis said, “Everyday, we see students who may not have enough money to afford a healthy meal.  We want them, and others in our community, to have access to healthy foods so that they can concentrate on their studies.  Students cannot nourish their minds without first nourishing their bodies.”

Currently in phase one, the ground has been broken, supplies are purchased, and at least three raised planting beds are being built. Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to help with the planning, planting, maintaining, and harvesting of the garden. The group plans to plant in the beds and to have vegetables ready this fall.  They will soon plant winter vegetables such as kale, squash, and sweet potatoes, among others. 

Take what you need
Leave what you can
Little becomes much when you
Do what you can

The garden joins a number of other projects that the campus is undertaking with the vision to always care for and advance the success of our students and communities.  In August, the campus placed a Little Food Pantry outside in the parking lot. The pantry is loaded with healthy snacks such as granola bars, crackers, and popcorn.  Students, faculty, staff, or anyone passing by can donate or take food. 

Plans are also underway for the campus to open a small food bank where people in need can come to gather canned goods, healthy meal ingredients, and other nonperishable foods.