Skip to main content

“Research consistently shows food insecurity is an issue for many students across the U.S., and we know Point Park students are not an exception. Our goal has been to continually grow the services we offer our students and this grant will allow us to do that.”

Heather Starr Fiedler, Ph.D., chair of Community Engagement & Leadership Department

Last week, Heather Starr Fiedler, Ph.D. pulled into the Student Center parking lot with 417 pounds of perishable food in her car. Within two hours, ounce-by-ounce and pound-by-pound, that food had been distributed to dozens of students at the monthly Produce Pop-Up, one of the University's initiatives to alleviate hunger on campus.

Point Park University was recently named a 2023-2024 PA Hunger-Free Campus Grant Awardee and will receive $34,100 from the state to expand the services it already offers to students, such as the Produce Pop-ups, the Pioneer Pantry food bank, and The Nook, a small community kitchen which allows students to have access to countertop appliances and a refrigerator.

The state grant will allow Point Park to:

Point Park was previously recognized by the state with a Pennsylvania Hunger-Free Campus + designation, which identifies the school “as a leader in this work, one that has gone above and beyond to alleviate hunger among college students.” Earning that recognition made it eligible to apply for the state grant program.

A 2023 Campus Basic Needs survey found that over 30% of our students face food insecurity.

“Research consistently shows food insecurity is an issue for many students across the U.S., and we know Point Park students are not an exception,” said Fiedler, who serves as chair of Point Park’s Department of Community Engagement & Leadership“Our goal has been to continually grow the services we offer our students and this grant will allow us to do that.”

The current plan is to place the corner store in Thayer Hall, with hopes of opening it before the end of the spring semester. Students will be able to “shop” for food as well as personal care items. Amilee Miller, a clinical psychology doctoral student, is helping administer the grant as part of her community psychology practicum. Miller will help with space design, furniture selection and putting the store together.

“I think this market model will help combat food insecurity stigma and provide a more pleasurable food experience,” she said.

Fiedler also plans to fund two "Pantry Ambassador" positions with the grant, allowing undergraduate students the opportunity to play a hands-on role in running the store and garden, as well as raise awareness of the services.

The garden will be located in the Admissions parking lot behind West Penn. “It will be the first thing [people] see when they come to Point Park,” Fiedler said. “It’s not only going to be a great thing for our existing students, but I actually think it has a lot of value for recruiting and for our visitors that come to see Point Park.”

The garden will be registered with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, which will provide help preparing the plot this spring as well as its summer upkeep.

Outside the Pioneer Pantry, students' orders await pick-up.


Fiedler expects that, in addition to the new corner store space, the Pioneer Pantry will continue to also allow students to fill out an online form and stop by the Pantry to pick up their prepackaged order. Jim Thomas, Ed.D., associate provost, has been volunteering weekly filling orders at the Pantry since its inception in 2017 as an initiative of Veronika Panagiatou, Ph.D., alumna of Point Park’s Community Engagement program. Thomas remembers interacting withstudent who was struggling to cover expenses for the month and how they appreciated the pantry’s assistance. 


While the Pantry provides shelf-stable items, the monthly Produce Pop-ups meet another need: fresh food, including produce as well as eggs, yogurt and milk. At January’s Produce Pop-up, as students circulated the tables, some of them were surprised to learn these items were available to them at no cost. “It’s for free?” exclaimed one student. As another left, she expressed her gratitude. “This is great," she said. "You made my day."

The small appliance kitchen known as The Nook, located near Point Café on the second floor of Lawrence Hall, provides students a way to use the food they receive from the Pantry and Pop-ups. The Nook opened at the end of the Fall 2023 semester, and Fiedler is pleased to see that students are making use of the space and taking care of the items.

The Nook is available for any student to use and is located near Point Cafe on the 2nd floor of Lawrence Hall.


With the funding provided by the grant, the University can continue to meet the challenge of food insecurity on campus. Thomas praised Fiedler’s efforts, saying, “Dr. Fiedler works tirelessly to serve those in our university community who are challenged temporarily or long-term with food insecurity."

More About: Psy.D. in clinical psychology, community engagement