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The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Pamela Smith, managing editor.
Column | In the blink of an eye, in the click of a shutter
By Pamela Smith, Managing Editor • April 20, 2024
Fresh Perspective | Final Farewell
By Julia Smeltzer, Digital Manager • April 19, 2024

Food locker to be added in Towers, intended to combat food insecurity on campus

A+member+of+Food+Recovery+Heroes+scoops+leftover+food+into+a+container.
Ethan Shulman | Visual Editor
A member of Food Recovery Heroes scoops leftover food into a container.

In the coming months, a new set of lockers will arrive at the Litchfield Towers lobby as part of Pitt’s plan to combat food insecurity and make food distribution more streamlined.

Food lockers will be installed in the Towers lobby. The lockers will store free Eatery meals for students who are food insecure, as well as provide a temperature-controlled location for Transact Mobile and Forbes Street Market orders to be delivered. 

Of the 61 total compartments, 25 will be devoted to Eatery meals, 20 will be for on-campus mobile orders and 16 will be utilized for grocery deliveries. Pitt intends to add more food lockers around campus. The first locker was originally slated to be installed at the end of September, but is currently delayed and now expected to arrive “in the coming months,” according to Sandy Barsotti, director of marketing and communications for the Office of Business, Hospitality and Auxiliary Services.

On weekdays, the lockers will be stocked with 25 packaged, reheatable meals from The Eatery in the mid-afternoon available free-of-charge for any student registered with the Pitt Pantry. Barsotti said each meal will have a protein, vegetable and starch. 

While who qualifies as being food insecure isn’t clear, Barsotti says students who are food insecure will have access to a private store on Transact Mobile and students registered with the Pitt Pantry will receive food locker meals for free.

She added that a second delivery will occur on Fridays “to cover a weekend meal,” and that many aspects of the locker’s operation, including the number of meals served per day, the uses for each compartment and the nutritional value of the food will be reassessed as needed.

“We are proud to feed future leaders and understand the immense responsibility we have to nourish our guest’s minds and bodies,” Barsotti said. “The same philosophy holds true regardless of whether it’s a meal eaten in one of our dining halls or a donated meal to a student in need.”

According to reporting by PublicSource, an estimated one in three college students across the country experiences food insecurity. Data released in 2021 revealed that approximately 18% of Pitt students reported having “low or very low levels of food security” in the month before being surveyed.

Students will also be able to order on-campus meals and groceries from Forbes Market Grocery through the Transact Mobile app to be delivered to the locker. At launch, Ft. Pitt Subs, True Burger and Create will deliver to the food locker.

Barsotti said the versatility of the locker will help alleviate feelings of shame or embarrassment students with food insecurities may have, and that interfacing with the food locker will be “very similar to picking up a package in the mailroom lockers.” 

“Once a delivery order is placed, customers will be assigned a pickup locker and time to claim the order,” Barsotti said. “The student will then interact with the lockers which identifies the customer and unlocks the appropriate door allowing them to claim their order.”On-campus mobile orders and groceries will be delivered by Pitt Eats, while meals for students with food insecurities will be delivered by Food Recovery Heroes, a student-run organization that combats food insecurity and food waste.

Gal Yovel, a junior biological sciences major and president of Food Recovery Heroes, said he’s “excited” to partner with Pitt Eats.

“They told us about this new locker initiative and how there’s gonna be meals made every day to give to students through the locker initiative,” Yovel said. “We thought it would be a great idea to help out because we already package the meals, so if we have the volunteers we’ll be able to package meals every day to help reduce the food waste that comes out of the dining hall food, but also be able to provide food to students who are food insecure.”

Luke Genco, a junior chemistry major and vice president of volunteers at Food Recovery Heroes, said the lockers are “a great program.”

“The food is otherwise going to waste or being thrown out, and it takes that food and it helps people get food when otherwise they may not have been able to afford it or they would have had to cut some other expense in their life to afford it,” he said.

Genco said that he thinks the food lockers are beneficial additions to Pitt.

“I will say, this semester, they have done even more than they have in the past,” Genco said. “I don’t know if you can ever say you’re really doing as much as you can because you can always do more, but they definitely work well with us.”

Barsotti said the installation of this food locker is part of Pitt’s approach to “innovate and evolve” food on campus.

“Pitt Eats … was searching for a way to better help our students battle food insecurity,” she said. “Installing lockers that can maintain the proper temperature was the next step in our desire to better serve our students in need.”

About the Contributor
Spencer Levering, Senior Staff Writer