Student-Led Initiatives Make an Impact at YSU
By Hannah Werle
YSU Communication and Journalism Major
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Penguin Pantry, started by the Student Government Association in 2016, provides free access to a variety of tangible resources for students and faculty members at Youngstown State University.
Located next to the café on the first floor of Cushwa Hall, the pantry is run by the Office of the Dean of Students and functions with the help of many student volunteers.
Jordan Pintar, executive vice president of SGA, said the pantry offers food, boxed and canned goods, nonperishable meals, hygiene and dental products, feminine products and clothing, which can be obtained via the pantry’s Career Closet.
“The Penguin Pantry is a donation-based food pantry for students on campus to utilize if they are suffering from food insecurity. We also have the Career Closet, which has free professional clothing – anything from suits to dresses – as well,” Pintar said.
Aaron Scott, a graduate intern with the Office of the Dean of Students, works with the pantry to find volunteers and maintain operations. Scott said the supplies provided at the pantry are often donation based.
“Generous community partners, alongside our own YSU community, are to thank for most items within the pantry,” Scott said. “When people come to the pantry, they fill out a form that asks what items they need from the pantry. Then our amazing volunteers take it from there, gathering what items we may have for them and collecting the forms to help us determine what kind of donations we should request when the pantry starts to run low.”
Not only does the pantry supply nonperishable food items, but officials are hoping to eventually grow and stock fresh fruits and vegetables. SGA and the Office of the Dean of Students are applying for a wellness grant intended to fund hydroponic gardening towers, which would enable fresh food to be grown on campus.
“One of the biggest types of feedback we receive from students is the need for fresh fruits and vegetables. Our area in Youngstown is a food desert, so we often see a need for fresh and healthy foods,” Pintar said. “One way we are looking to do this is with hydroponic gardening towers that would grow fresh produce on campus to supply the Penguin Pantry.”
Pintar explained that hydroponic gardening is a process of growing food without any soil, which works to grow produce faster with more sustainability within smaller areas.
“It would be fresh food grown by students for the students. This would be able to help students learn about the process of growing food sustainably, as well as supplying fresh vegetables for those in need,” Pintar said.
One initiative to promote the Penguin Pantry and raise awareness about food insecurity is Swipe Out Hunger Week, held by the SGA.
From Oct. 30 to Nov. 2, SGA will host events such as a panel discussion, group volunteering and a hunger simulation. At these events, students can donate leftover meal swipes from their weekly meal plan. The Office of the Dean of Students then distributes the swipes to students in need.
Rayvin Gorrell, a student employee with the Office of the Dean of Students and chief of staff for SGA, volunteers for the pantry and helps coordinate Swipe Out Hunger Week.
“Many people on campus lack basic access to reliable food, so having some on campus where it is close and easy to go to is really important. … The goal of Swipe Out Hunger Week is to collect meal swipes for students in need and raise awareness about food insecurity on campus. We will be hosting several events throughout the week to get students involved,” Gorrell said.
The YSU community is encouraged to get involved by donating or volunteering. For those interested in larger or monetary donations, contact the Office of the Dean of Students at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pictured at top: Rayvin Gorrell, a student employee with the Office of the Dean of Students and chief of staff for the Student Government Association. (Photo by Olivia Rivera, YSU Graphic and Interactive Design major)
Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.