John Tolley, May 8, 2020

The devastating wake of the COVID-19 pandemic is made even more so by the seemingly unrelated issues it has exacerbated. Perhaps none is more in focus now than food insecurity, which plagues an estimated 1.5 million people in Pennsylvania. Self-isolation, restricted store hours, and widespread unemployment have left many worrying about where their next meal will be coming from.

Rising to protect residents of the Keystone State, Penn State Health has partnered with area food banks to provide relief.

At the Hershey Medical Center's COVID-19 testing site, the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank distributes boxes, each containing 25 meals, to those in need. Before their test, each individual is asked whether they have concerns surrounding access to food. If they answer yes, they have an option to receive a meal box loaded into their car as they leave.

For Penn State Health community health director Ashley Visco, it's an extension of the university's role in the community.

 

"We're really glad to be able to help people at a scary, chaotic time. It's nice to be able to offer them some peace of mind."

 

As a positive test result means at least two weeks of self-isolation, it is crucial to ensure that people are secure in their environment.

For those already fully or partially isolated, food insecurity remains an ongoing issue. To that end, students at the Penn State College of Medicine are reaching out via phone to identify those who need assistance. Those individuals or families are referred on to the Caring Cupboard food pantry, which provides three weeks of food delivery.

From the outset of the pandemic and subsequent quarantine and isolation protocols, Penn State has played an actively role in helping get food to those in need. the university's Housing and Food Services unit makes weekly donations of items, including non-perishables, fresh produce and dairy products. They've distributed well over 17,000 lbs. of food to the Central PA Food Bank and other organizations since mid-March.

To find out more about these programs and others helping the Penn State community, check out the full article here.