PENNSYLVANIA'S #1 WEEKLY NEWSPAPER • locally owned since 1854

Food pantry, clothes closet help Penn State Harrisburg students who need a hand

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 9/4/19

Last school year at Penn State Harrisburg, Ashley Schools heard a student’s heartbreaking situation.

The student’s grandmother was sending her feminine products once a month, but that …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Food pantry, clothes closet help Penn State Harrisburg students who need a hand

Posted

Last school year at Penn State Harrisburg, Ashley Schools heard a student’s heartbreaking situation.

The student’s grandmother was sending her feminine products once a month, but that was the only support that the student was receiving from her family.

She was struggling to make ends meet. All of her paychecks from her campus job went to her tuition, and she was sleeping on friends’ couches.

“It just was really keeping me up at night. I kept worrying about her,” said Schools, who works as a financial coordinator at Penn State’s office of Student Life and Intercultural Programs.

There has to be something we can do to help students because she can’t be the only struggling student, she said.

In August 2018, the WE cARE Food Pantry opened, which provides food to students for free with their student ID.

It’s one of the recent Penn State efforts to help students. In February, a Career Closet opened, which provides professional attire to students for free.

Both the food pantry and closet are in need of donations.

Food insecurity, or the reduced quality or variety in diet and disrupted eating habits, including eating less food, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is a nationwide issue.

Food insecurity goes past hunger, Schools said. These students who experience food insecurity also lack the energy to stay focused during class and be successful in school.

“We can’t do everything for them, but we can help,” Schools said.

Students have come into the pantry in tears out of gratitude, Schools said.

So far, 154 student households have come through the pantry since August and the pantry distributed 5,702 pounds of food, according to Schools.

The pantry, which is located in room 309 in Church Hall, is open twice a week — 3 to 5 p.m. Mondays and 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursdays. Students can come as often as needed. After students show their ID, they are given a bag to fill.

Most of the food is shelf-stable, such as cereal, canned goods and shelf-stable milk. Schools said they’re working to bring in refrigerators by the end of the semester so that they can offer refrigerated goods, too. Students can also offer suggestions on foods to get.

Penn State partnered with the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, although it also accepts donations and has donation barrels across campus, including in the Olmsted Building, Student Enrichment Center and the Capital Union Building.

They also accept donations for items such as hygiene and feminine products, household items, and paper products — anything that would help someone living on their own for the first time.

Schools said they’re looking for hygiene products such as deodorant, body wash, shampoo, feminine products, toothpaste, toothbrushes and toilet paper; paper towels; paper plates and hats and gloves for the winter.

Monetary donations should be sent to the Office of Development, which is located in W110 Olmsted Building.

Career Closet

Last year, Career Services staff held a focus group with student workers, and Associate Director Katy Rush learned that students lack a professional wardrobe for interviews and career fairs, according to Career Counselor Brooke Plasterer.

“It can be very expensive to purchase a whole suit. So we wanted to make it accessible to students,” Plasterer said.

Looking nice for an interview adds confidence, and students want to make a good first impression, she added.

“Going into an interview, we want them to be confident because it definitely shows,” Plasterer said.

Career Services staff decided to build a Career Closet, in the Career Services office in Room 212 in the Student Enrichment Center. The closet is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The closet opened in February. Students can pick from clothing items including suits, jackets, dress pants, dress shirts, ties, sweaters, socks, stockings, jewelry, shoes and briefcases.

About 35 students have taken items from the closet, though Plasterer said more have walked through it.

Plasterer said the students can visit whenever they want, even without an appointment. A staff member will walk the student back, and the student is free to try on any clothes. The students can keep any of the clothes for free.

Career Services is looking for donations of men’s dress shoes, jewelry, padfolios and smaller-size clothing.

Donations can be picked up or dropped off. Call Career Services at 717-948-6260 or email ask4careeradvice@psu.edu to schedule.