SHARON — Last spring, staff members at Penn State Shenango surveyed students from virtually every major to find out their needs.

“As a committee, we came up with questions and surveys and targeted classrooms so we had a wide range of demographics,” said Stacy Gongloff, administrative assistant for student affairs.

The results were eye-opening.

As much as 25 percent of current Penn State Shenango students, all of whom commute to campus, have some type of food insecurity and cannot afford to buy lunch or breakfast, said Robin Criswell, administrative assistant for athletics and food services.

The Staff Advisory Council of Penn State Shenango (SAC) has recently launched its SAC-tober mission in an effort to raise funds for students just trying to get by. Nittany Nook Food Pantries and Fuel for the Future Fund are two major initiatives the college has launched in an effort to help students succeed.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as “household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.”

In order to help close the gap, Penn State Shenango staff members banned together and created a solution.

“It’s the staff giving back to the students,” said Gongloff.

More than 400 students from Mercer, Lawrence, Mahoning and Trumbull counties have access to the Nittany Nook Food Pantries in three locations on campus, including Sharon Hall, Forker Lab and Lartz Library.

To protect the anonymity of student-users, the food pantries are located in private spots where students have access to “shelf-stable” grab-and-go items like toaster pastries, canned pasta, macaroni and cheese, popcorn, soup, oatmeal, fruit cups, applesauce and protein bars.

Nittany Nook Food Pantries are available to students from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Students are using the food pantries, according to Miranda Hayes, intern with Penn State Shenango’s Office of Student Affairs. Hayes is responsible for monitoring food usage and noticed a spike during week three of the current fall semester, she said.

Gongloff estimates the Nittany Nook Food Pantries cost about $150 per month to sustain, she said. Anyone interested in donating to the Nittany Nook Food Pantry program may do so during a food drive at a 2 p.m. women’s volleyball match on Oct. 19 at Buhl Community Recreation Center.

“We’re specifically looking for grab-and-go snacks or meals,” Criswell said.

In an effort to help students travel to unpaid clinicals or internships, the Penn State Shenango staff is looking to raise $2,000 for its Fuel for the Future fund.

Students in need may apply online for assistance, said Andy Puleo, Penn State Shenango assistant director of student affairs and chair of the staff advisory council. Some students travel to Pittsburgh, Cleveland and even as far away as Florida and North Carolina for clinicals, he said.

Depending on financial-need, if a student is deemed financially-eligible, he or she will be awarded a Speedway gift card to help offset the cost of gas, according to Puleo.

“We will look at any avenue we can for funding for our students,” Puleo said.

ANYONE wishing to support either initiative may do so at the Let’s Grow State crowd-funding Web site

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