Penn Staters collaborate to donate food, offer support during pandemic

Housing and Food Services staff member loads a donation for the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank

Housing and Food Services staff member Robert Whistler loads a food donation for the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank on March 19.

Credit: Patrick Mansell

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact communities throughout Pennsylvania and the countryPenn State staff members across the Commonwealth are supporting neighbors and community members in need by donating food — crates and pallets full of apples, lettuce, onions, potatoes, eggs, cheese, yogurt, eggs, tofu, tortillas and more — to food banks and other local organizations.  

“We know this is an extremely difficult time for students and people in our community and beyond. We’re striving to come together as a Penn State family to do what we can to help ease that burden,” said Anna Sostarecz, sustainability coordinator in Penn State Enterprise Services, who helps organize weekly food donations. “During this time of uncertainty, it motivates me to be able to help friends and neighbors in this critical way.”

Since 2019, Penn State Beaver and Penn State Greater Allegheny have partnered with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food BankWith the shift to remote learning, the campuses donated convenience-style items, like breakfast bars and snacksto the food bank, which serves 11 counties and provides 35 million meals annually to Pennsylvanians. 

In addition, Housing and Food Services at Penn State Behrend hadonated bulk quantities of milk and bread to the Erie City Mission, which provides free daily lunch to those in need

“Throughout the year, whenever we have something to give — from produce to dairy to beans — we always call the Erie City Mission, as well as our campus’ Lion’s Pantry,” said Lacey Schulz, manager in Housing and Food Services. “It really is a team effort for those of us who are part of the Housing and Food Services team. Our managers and staff go above and beyond to communicate and coordinate our donations to help support those in need in our community.”

Among other efforts, staff members in Penn State Housing and Food Services, in collaboration with other units at University Parkhave continued weekly donations of fresh produce, dairy and other food products to the Central Pennsylvania Food BankMoshannon Valley YMCA and State College Area School District, which is still providing breakfast and lunch to K-12 students in need. 

In just a couple of weeks, more than 17,445 pounds of food have been donated to these three organizations thanks to the collective efforts of University staff members in Penn State Enterprise Services, Nittany Lion Inn, Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center, Residential Dining, HUB Retail Dining, Campus Catering and the Berkey Creamery.

According to Joe Arthur, executive director of the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, over the past week, many of the food bank’s partner agencies have reported triple the number of clients. He said with record numbers of Pennsylvanians filing for unemployment, the demand on food banks is increasing significantly.

“The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank has packed thousands of additional Crisis Response Boxes and anticipates packing hundreds of thousands more in the coming weeks,” Arthur said. “We appreciate the safe and direct donation of food-service-quality food from Penn State, which will help us feed these families in need.”

As part of this effort, the Creamery also is donating dairy products to the food bank, which will be distributed among a network comprised of 1,000 food pantries, service agencies, soup kitchens and shelters in 26 counties across the state. 

“The coronavirus pandemic is having a devastating impact on many people, including those in our community,” said Jim Brown, assistant manager of the Creamery. “We wanted to do our part to ease their burden and give our products to families who need help now.”

'We Are' stories
The “We Are” spirit is perhaps more important than ever before, and Penn Staters everywhere are coming together in new and amazing ways. During these challenging times, our community is continuing to realize Penn State’s commitment to excellence through acts of collaboration, thoughtfulness and kindness. As President Eric Barron has written on Digging Deeper, this truly is a “We Are” moment — and we want to hear your “We Are” stories. 

Visit to share how you or other Penn Staters are supporting each other to overcome the collective challenges presented by the novel coronavirus. We are!