Four Organization, Four Structures, One Cause….Canstruction® 2019

Canstruction® was founded in 1992 by a group of New York architects and engineers who wanted to combine their love of creativity, innovation, and building with hunger relief. This charity art exhibition has grown in unbelievable ways and is now represented in schools and communities across the country. These events have helped collect and donate over 50 million pounds of food in total as every item of the structures made entirely from cans are donated to local food banks at the end of each event.

Our event will highlight the creative structures of Penn State Global Brigades, The Lion’s Pantry Club, The Student Farm Club, and Project Cahir. The structures will be judged by Penn State faculty and administration and the best structure will win a prize! Students, staff, and community members can participate in the People’s Choice portion of judging by bringing a canned item and placing it in a box in front of their favorite structure.

We invite the media to join us on March 27th from 4-6:30pm and we will be sharing information on other special event hours soon! The event will also provide information about each of the clubs involved as well as information on food insecurity and ways to get involved with this important discussion. Check out for a taste of what is coming to our campus!

We Are…Grateful for the opportunity to bring an exciting Canstruction® event to our campus and can’t wait to see you there!

Addressing the Stigma

Post Written By: Ann White

Consider the following scenario. You’re sitting in a lecture hall full of fellow college students eagerly waiting for class to begin. Just as the professor begins to teach, your stomach loudly growls. Many would suggest a simple solution of a quick snack to silence it. However, because you are a food insecure college student, that is a luxury you can’t afford. In fact, you are now stuck figuring out where your next meal will come from. You have to worry about sending in the rent check and electricity bill for the month, on top of paying tuition for the semester. Additionally, you have to work after this class to cover these financial obligations, so there’s no time to eat anyways. You contemplate the possibility that today might be a one-meal day. All of a sudden, the class starts to rise and pack their belongings as you’re snapped back to reality and notice that class has finished. Clearly unable to focus for another class period, you now have to plan to teach yourself the material in your limited free time.

The above situation is a day-to-day struggle for many college students who experience food insecurity, including those at Penn State. One day I had the opportunity to speak with a gracious Pantry client. She shared, “I just heard about The Lion’s Pantry thirty minutes ago and made the trek up here because I needed food for this week.” I replied saying that I was grateful that she discovered our services, but wish she could have known sooner.  She responded stating, “I think I would have been more aware of them if there was less of a stigma around food insecurity.” I agreed and then asked her to elaborate on that statement. She hesitantly and emotionally continued, “I work, take many classes, and am in clubs, but people think that I am just being lazy when I can’t afford food when in fact I am trying my hardest.”

Through several other conversations I found that this client is far from the only student experiencing this stigma.  I wanted to address the stigma about being food insecure by providing outsiders and myself with opportunities to gain greater perspectives on the significance of food insecurity during college. It is essential that individuals understand the magnitude of the issue of food insecurity and its further influence on other aspects of student’s lives. From my conversations, many students feel stigma because there are many individuals who are not aware that their fellow students can’t afford food. This indicates to me a need for educational initiatives that help others understand food insecurity and its implications. It needs to be not only the mission of The Lion’s Pantry, but also the responsibility of the Penn State community to address food insecurity and the associated stigma as a student issue. If food insecurity is a student issue, it is Penn State University’s issue.

A Visit To The Pantry

Post Written By: Ann White

Before my first time venturing to The Lion’s Pantry, I was not familiar with what lay in the land beyond East Halls. I was aware of the location of the Arboretum, but had assumed by appearance that anything further qualified as insignificant to a Penn State student. After passing the Katz Law building which has a side built entirely of crystal clear windows that seemingly never end, most of the buildings in the following area have a semblance to structures that one would find in an industrial park. The Lion’s Pantry is not immune to this architecture as its four dark gray metal walls and white metal roof join together to create what looks like a small-scale warehouse. As I slowly scanned the exterior, I distinctly noticed that the pantry had quite a few windows, but they appeared opaquely white – similar to spray on snow – prompting an onlooker to ponder what may be inside. Most notably at the main entrance was a large blue sign which adorned The Lion’s Pantry’s logo and the welcoming message of “operated by Penn State students for Penn State students” advocating that whoever enters will be supported and helped by their fellow students.

Upon entering the pantry, a large wooden counter with pamphlets and cards marked with The Lion’s Pantry logo immediately came into my view. I moved forward into the pantry to be then surrounded by off-white metal shelves on which the pantry items resided. They were labeled with homemade tags that organized the food according to categories. The shelves significantly supported the grocery store feeling that the pantry attempts to obtain for its users in order to promote the ideology that visiting the pantry is just like grocery shopping, except that it’s free. The goal is to feel familiar and realistic to students so that they are comfortable. Although cold to the touch, the shelves welcomed individuals as they housed the food that many could not afford themselves.

I started to walk toward the many food items beginning with canned vegetables, fruits, and meats. Reflecting on the organization of the pantry, I realized that the shelves and layout of their foods created an intricate maze that clients work through to locate what they need. Within the shelves there were plastic dividers that ensure certain foods stay in their rightful spots and don’t cross over to where they don’t belong. Although there was a classification system among the foods, I found more than a few items hiding in unexpected places. A dark green can of peas peaked out behind some canned peaches while some Aunt Jemima pancake mix had made the journey to join the elbow macaroni boxes. Additionally, some shelves held were pre-made goodie gift bags notes of encouragement from generous donors. The bags brightened up the pantry as they represented external love and solace from individuals who supported not only the efforts of The Lion’s Pantry, but also the students who utilize its resources.

A typical trip to the pantry includes students entering with stretched out arms to show us their IDs. We usually give a spiel to first time users letting them know that they can take a reusable bag and gather as much food as they need. We value anonymity and privacy, thus no questions are asked about personal information or socioeconomic status. Our primary mission is to provide a welcoming space that involves a simplistic process for the pantry clients. By achieving this, we hope that students will be encouraged to use The Lion’s Pantry as we address food insecurity one visit at a time.

Welcome to The Lion’s Pantry Blog

Thank you for stopping by! Here we will be posting words from our executive team, pantry clients, and updates about the organization.

As our first post I’d like you to get to know me a little more. My name is Tiana Williams, and I am currently serving as the Lion’s Pantry President. I’m from Philadelphia, PA. I grew up in West Philadelphia for the first 10 years of my life and have moved around all across the city since then. My favorite food is sushi and my zodiac sign is Cancer.

My interest in working with Lion’s Pantry stems from my own struggle dealing with food security, not only in my childhood but also while here at Penn State. I know what it’s like to go to bed hungry, to be excited to go to school because I knew I would eat, and to stretch meals that shouldn’t be stretched just so that I could eat everyday. That silent struggle to be a normal, functioning student and still pursue my dreams is not easy.

I’ve made a point to pursue opportunities that allow me to reach out and help those that may otherwise be overlooked. Whether that be through farming and providing fresh produce to people, learning about food systems and community development in my classes, or working with the Lion’s Pantry, my passion is to bring food to people–with fairness and compassion at the forefront of my service.

Not only is the Lion’s Pantry providing a necessary resource to students at the University Park campus, it is building a community of support for students who are stigmatized and undetectable. By existing as a resource we are reaching out to students and saying “You are welcome here. We care about your struggles and will support you through them.”

One the greatest things about being at a large campus like University Park is the wealth of resources and opportunities to make sure students feel safe and accepted. I am happy to be a part of an organization that breaks down the stigma of food insecurity as a community that aims to serve.