Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) visited the Knights’ Pantry, Neumann University’s food bank for students, on December 15, telling university administrators and students that the pantry is “a fabulous example of how you meet people where they are, see what it is that they need, and make it easy to use.”
She is co-sponsor of a bill that would convene a White House conference on food, nutrition, hunger, and health – the first such task force in more than 50 years. She said that “pantries like this give people sovereignty over their food choices” by giving them the ability to shop rather than accept pre-packaged charitable donations.
During Scanlon’s visit, David Shertel, president of Neumann’s Student Government Association, announced that the SGA had donated $25,000 to begin building an endowment that will allow the pantry to continue in perpetuity.
While specific data regarding food insecurity at Neumann is not available, national surveys in late 2020 found that almost one-third of college students (32 percent) face this issue, defined as “having to miss meals for financial reasons or not knowing where your next meal is coming from.” According to the survey data, the pandemic has exacerbated the problem.
The Knights’ Pantry began operations on September 8 on the fifth floor of the Rocco Abessinio Building.
Designed to look like a small convenience store with aisles and rows of shelving, the pantry offers non-perishable food and personal hygiene items to any student with a university ID, no questions asked. When students check in, they are given a small shopping bag and asked to select no more than the bag can hold.
The concept is the brainchild of Rina Keller, professor of Social Work, and Mary Beth Davis, counselor at Neumann’s Counseling Center for Wellness. Their goal is that the Knights’ Pantry will evolve into a student-run organization, coordinated by a mix of interns, work study students, and volunteers.