Emma Polen | Editor-in-Chief
Three years ago, a Temple University study found that nearly 40% of students in higher education experienced food insecurity.
The newest of Duquesne’s own across-campus service ventures is the Center for Migration, Displacement and Community Studies’ food pantry, located on the third floor of College Hall. Food security for the campus community is the reason for their arrival to the McAnulty School of Liberal Arts, and the driving force behind their continued efforts.
In 2018, about 30% of Duquesne students experienced moderate to high food insecurity, with another 20% at-risk for food insecurity, according to a study on food insecurity at universities in Southwestern PA that the migration center posted on their spring fundraising site.
Dr. Jennie Schulze, a professor in political sciences and international relations, is the faculty advisor for Migration Club, which is the organization responsible for staffing the food pantry and making sure the shelves are stocked on a daily basis.
“Food security is one of the biggest reasons people pick up and go someplace else,” Schulze said. “So, tackling issues of food security fits really well with the mission of the Center.”
The Center for Migration, Displacement and Community Studies has held campus activities before, but the food pantry has been their largest fundraising project yet, in addition to being inclusive to the entire campus community.
“It’s been amazing just seeing how many people want to be a part of it, with volunteering but also [who] want to make use of the pantry,” Schulze said.
Sao Mai Nguyen came in to the Migration Club as a freshman this year. As a second-generation Vietnamese American, she said she was interested in looking into displaced people and seeing what’s going on in the world. Now, Nguyen runs the promotional material for the club.
Aside from “full stomachs,” Migration Club’s efforts to promote the pantry aim to offer awareness about food insecurity and destigmatize its effects on students and the surrounding community, Nguyen said.
Duquesne’s own campus is situated in a food desert, the Hill District. Nguyen hopes that, with help from the club’s messaging, the campus community can become more accepting of individuals with nutritional needs, and those facing challenges feel safe looking for security.
Additional events the club plans to host this semester include a how-to cooking class and canning event, which Schulze said are in the works for later this semester, in order to offer suggestions for ways to use the pantry’s offerings.
Linda Rendulic, assistant to the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, has also played a major role in moving the Center for Migration, Displacement and Community Studies’ efforts forward.
“We know the importance that good food and eating healthy have on our mind and body, yet we have learned that there are students who do not have enough to eat and are struggling to manage financially,” Rendulic said. “This is another way that we can ‘Serve God by serving students.’”
The faculty’s support for the food pantry’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. Jason Minicozzi, president of Migration Club and senior in the liberal arts college, especially thanked Rendulic for her efforts in helping the club move forward with growing the pantry to assist more in need.
Minicozzi himself was tasked with the important mission of grant writing for the Migration Club’s service efforts. The food pantry’s primary means of fundraising has been through private NGOs and crowdfunding through the university, but campus community donations also help, he said.
“As students stop by to pick up food for the week, our inventory decreases quickly,” Rendulic said. “With donations from the campus community, they will ensure that our students will continue to eat well and have the nourishment to learn, think, exercise and live a healthy life.”
Other established food pantries on campus, in Rangos, the Nursing school (Fisher) and Brother Keating’s Initiative, have offered nothing but overwhelming support.
The Center for Migration, Displacement and Community Studies pantry, while located in the college of liberal arts, is open to all students, faculty and staff at the university.
“We have options for everyone,” Minicozzi said, emphasizing the pantry’s discreet operations.
While the pantry asks, optionally, for visitors to sign in by noting their school of study and position (student, faculty or adjunct professor), this information is solely for the purpose of seeing where best to place their promotional efforts in the future.
Those who are unable to make it during the pantry’s hours can pick up pre-packaged food any time. More information for this request can be found by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
In April, the Duke reported that the food pantry was in its initial phases. This fall, the pantry is fully operational for the first time ever, and it already hosts a number of perishable and non-perishable items.
Currently, the pantry receives fresh vegetables, including peppers, cherry tomatoes and lettuce from the Laval House garden. Additionally, they also offer milk, bread and frozen meats, and non-perishable food and personal hygiene items.
Migration Club currently purchases discounted dry goods from the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank. Once partnered with the food bank, which will be later this semester, the campus pantry will also be able to purchase perishable goods at a similar discount price during the winter months when the campus gardens are not in season.
To avoid wasting any unused food, food close to its expiration typically ends up in the faculty lounges, Minicozzi said.
Migration Club has added a number of rooms on the third floor of College Hall in their efforts of expanding the pantry and providing even more to the campus community.
The club is looking for new volunteers to expand the hours they have the pantry open, to help with stocking goods on Mondays and to make the club’s efforts more long-term.
More information about potential donations and volunteer opportunities can be found at the Center for Migration, Displacement and Community Studies’ page on the Duquesne University website.
“As with any charitable project, many others are needed to make it a success. Not only is leadership key, but the donors are just as valuable. We need them if we are to succeed,” Rendulic said.
With additional support from the campus community, the Center for Migration, Displacement and Community Studies will continue to make a difference, one can of Chef Boyardee at a time.
“A community pantry FOR the community,” Nguyen said.