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What is Food Insecurity?

Food insecurity is defined as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. Food insecurity could be ongoing for many years or it could be a short-term challenge brought on by any number of circumstances. Below are some questions you can ask yourself to help better understand if you are experiencing food insecurity. 

In the past 12 months:

  • I worried whether my food would run out before I got money to buy more.
  • The food that I bought just didn't last and I didn't have money to get more.
  • I couldn't afford to eat balanced meals.
  • I cut the size of my meals or skipped meals because there wasn't enough money for food.
  • I ate less than I felt I should because there wasn’t enough money for food.
  • I was hungry but didn’t eat, because there wasn’t enough money for food.

Questions used by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to assess food insecurity.

If you are facing one of these challenges, there are a variety of resources available. Penn State cares and staff are here to support you. If you have questions about a resource below, students at every campus can call or email Student Care and Advocacy to learn more and access support. 

Resources for food, clothing, toiletries, and other basic needs

Community Food Banks and Federal Assistance

Students can access food pantries provided by their local communities and by most Penn State campuses. If you are not on a campus or there is no food pantry on your campus, the following resources will connect you to a food bank near you:

Students may be eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits if they qualify for a work-study program (Even if you are not participating) or have an expected family contribution of $0 on federal student aid determination. 

Penn State Resources for students at all campuses

Penn State resources can provide assistance with groceries, meals, toiletries, basic household items, clothing, textbooks, and more. 

Project Cahir: Can provide up to $100 on-campus meal plan account or LionCash+ account for assistance with food purchases. Students can also request pre-packaged toiletries as well as textbook assistance through Project Cahir. 

Student Emergency Fund: Provides short-term financial assistance to students who are struggling with debilitating financial circumstances of an unforeseen nature.

Free Nutrition Clinic: Students can schedule a free appointment with a registered dietitian who can help with designing a nutritious meal plan within limited financial resources.

Resources by Campus

University Park

Food Banks in the State College area

Lion's Pantry: Penn State's food bank located between Lion's Surplus and the Blue Band Building on Services Rd behind the Katz Law Building.

Cub Pantries: Pantry satellite locations in the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center and the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity in the HUB-Robeson Center are open during office hours. 

State College Food Bank: Located at 1321 South Atherton Street. 

Other meal/grocery support

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church Community Cafe: Located in St. Andrew’s church on W. Foster Street, the cafe provides a free weekly meal to anyone.

Abba Java Coffeehouse: Located in St. Paul’s United Methodist Church; Provides a safe study spot with free self-serve coffee and tea, food, and Wi-Fi.

Project Cahir: Can provide up to $100 on-campus meal plan account or LionCash+ account for assistance with food purchases.

Clothing, toiletries, and other basic needs

Lion's Pantry: In addition to food items, Penn State's food bank offers toiletries and home cleaning supplies. 

Project Cahir: Students can request pre-packaged toiletries as well as textbook assistance through Project Cahir. 

Professional Attire Closet: Located in the Career Services Building the closet provides free professional attire to Penn State students.

The Clothing Transit: Provides free clothing and accessories for trans and gender non-conforming students without the discomfort of shopping in a traditional clothing store.

UPUA Wellness Fund: Helps to cover the cost of medical appointments at University Health Services. 

Commonwealth Campuses
World Campus

World Campus students who are near a Penn State Commonwealth Campus may be able to access some of the resources listed in the Commonwealth Campus Resources section. 

The organizations listed below provide resources by location for students living anywhere in the United States. 

  • Feeding America: provides a list of food banks that support food insecurity nationwide.
  • Find Help: provides a variety of services, including those related to food, housing, utilities, employment, transit, and childcare.
  • Disaster Assistance: provides information around emergency food and water resources after disasters.
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Food Support and Basic Resources