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Identity & Community

Hoagie Theft At CCAC South Prompts Student Food Bank

Officials at the Community College of Allegheny County’s south campus are trying to fight student hunger with a new food pantry.

School management came to the idea after a student allegedly stole a hoagie from a sandwich sale, said Kelli Maxwell, dean of student development at CCAC south campus.

“It is a theft, so we decided to issue the student a warning,” Maxwell said. “But it was really eye opening for us, in terms of what we need to do to help eliminate hunger.”

The Allegheny Department of Human Services did a study of the neighborhoods surrounding the south campus area and found that eight neighborhoods are considered distressed, and seven are in very high need, according to Maxwell. She said she knew suburban poverty was increasing and was concerned about the college’s students.  

According to Maxwell, of the 4,000 students enrolled at CCAC’s south campus, 1,100 of them have zero family contribution to tuition and expenses. And close to 1,000 are receiving Pell grants, which are need-based federal grants for eligible low-income undergraduates.

With that in mind, campus officials decided to open a food pantry. The community college did a soft launch this past October and November. It served a total of 75 people during the once-a-month food distribution to 25 students and their family members.

A grand opening ceremony for the Campus Cupboard South Food Pantry was held last week and served a total of 86 people, including 35 students and their families. The pantry’s goal is to provide three days of food for students and their families each month, to supplement what they may not get elsewhere, Maxwell said.

“Now that we've had the grand opening and it's more visible on campus, we're able to build the pantry ... into all of our support services,” she said. “So when a student goes to tutoring, we're able to have pantry brochures there. When they go to student life events, we're able to offer support, as well.”

With a $25,000 grant from the Jefferson Regional Foundation, CCAC’s south campus is renovating a community kitchen, once used for baking class. It had gone unused for years, but will feature a commercial refrigeration, a freezer and shelving space, which will allow for months of food donations to be stored. Many of those donations are made possible by the campus’ partnership with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

“It's our hope that we're able to support students who are experiencing food insecurity, so they are able to concentrate on their studies,” Maxwell said. “And then we'll be able to retain them as students at CCAC, they'll do better academically and then they'll be able to go on and pursue whatever their next goal is.”

The pantry is currently only available on the south campus, but Maxwell said that both the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and CCAC want to expand it to the other campuses with the eventual hope of providing food for the staff and neighboring community members who may need it.

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