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Organizers come together to help students fight against hunger over winter break

Organizers create these break boxes with nonperishable food for students experiencing food insecurity during winter break. (WJAC)

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Penn State's Lion Pantry helps up to 40 students a week but, during the breaks, everything on campus will shut down, leaving some students in a tough bind.

Now, the local community is coming together to do something about it. Lion’s Pantry and Abba Java Coffeehouse have partnered and they're specifically focusing on students who may stay in town during winter break.

"A majority of our Penn State population is white and probably middle class, upper middle class,” Lion's Pantry volunteer coordinator Anne White said. “So, sometimes, food insecurity is not like a main concern for them, so I don’t think it's discussed enough."

No problem shall be left behind a belief locals are going by Penn State students and residents realizing that food insecurity hits close to home.

"Food is expensive and people are forced to pay for rent, tuition, and books and other things that they need for school and food can sometimes be pushed to a last priority," White said.

With the university going on winter break Friday, students say a majority of resources on campus will close. And not everyone will or can travel home.

"They might be here for break, they might not be able to go home or we do have some international students," White said.

Because both local pantries will be closed, organizers are working together to fill that void by creating break boxes.

"Wesley partnered with Lion's Pantry to create these break boxes with nonperishable food for people experiencing food insecurity while we're closed during the break," Wesley Foundation intern Taylor Pawlik said.

Pawlik helps Jen Gruendler, a campus minister and director of the Wesley Foundation, which operates Abba Java. Gruendler said the idea came from the backpack programs but instead is for college students.

The food for the boxes is provided by Lion's Pantry, members of the congregation and the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. Boxes also include gift cards for local grocery stores. They can be tailored to meet dietary restrictions.

So far, only two students have requested boxes, there are additional ones for those who might still be in need.

"They can just say they're looking for a break box for winter break and we kind of drum one up for them," Pawlik said.

This is the first time that organizers are doing this. They said they hope it will grow into something bigger.

The break box project will be for both winter and summer breaks. If you're interested, you can contact the group via social media.

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