Student Leading the Charge to Establish Food Pantry for IUP Students in Need

Posted on 11/19/2018 11:27:32 AM

Dani Wade is looking for big ideas to help grow the IUP Food Pantry project and, thanks to a donation from a generous alumnus, she thinks she’s found what she’s looking for.

Dani Wade, international business major, is working to establish a food pantry at IUPWade, a senior international business major from Penn Hills, recently attended the 2018 Net Impact Conference in Phoenix. It’s an annual event that, according to its website, “brings leaders together for a dynamic exchange of ideas about how to tackle our toughest social and environmental problems.”

Terry Serafini, a 1961 IUP graduate who has taken a keen interest in the university’s Food Pantry project, helped Wade attend this conference. This initiative has been started to combat the problem of food insecurity on campus.

“Mr. Serafini providing the funding for the trip means a lot to me,” Wade said. “His generosity has allowed this project to move forward and will help ensure that food insecurity will not affect an IUP student’s ability to learn, flourish, and succeed with their college education. He has been a huge support, and I am truly grateful for his contribution.”

Net Impact, based in Oakland, California, describes itself as a “leadership accelerator for future changemakers.” The theme for this year’s conference was “Outside the Lines,” with students from across the country taking part in workshops, seminars and networking opportunities during the three-day event.

“The conference was composed of many influential keynote speakers who talked about their businesses and how they were positively impacting the world,” Wade said. “There were also breakout sessions that held panels where I was able to speak with some of the speakers, such as Paul Dillinger, the vice president of global innovation at Levi’s, and Adam Foss, the founder and president of Prosecutor Impact, as well as many others.”

Wade said she was interested in attending the event because of her involvement in the IUP Food Pantry project through Each One Reach One (EORO), which is part of the Fredrick Douglass Institute at IUP.

“I believed that I could learn helpful strategies that would help get the campus food pantry started,” she said. “I believed that working with the Net Impact Food Fellowship would provide me the opportunity to help the students dealing with food insecurities on campus.”

Dani Wade met Stephen Ritz of Green Bronx Machine at the Net Impact ConferenceWade said one of the keynote speakers left a big impression on her. Stephen Ritz, the founder of the Green Bronx Machine, outlined his group’s mission, which is to improve the lives of its residents in its area of New York City through education, local food systems, and work-force development.

“Nobody will go broke giving love or goodwill, so give it often and give it daily and feel good about it,” Ritz said during his presentation. “Refuse to accept the things you cannot change and change the things you can't accept.”

Wade said Ritz’s speech moved her to expand her goals for the IUP food pantry.

“It not only energized me,” she said, “but it also inspired me to look at the bigger picture of what establishing a food pantry could mean for IUP.”

EORO is overseeing the food pantry project, and one appeal for funds is coming from the Student Philanthropy Council’s student giving project, Help A Hawk. These efforts will help make sure it’s a sustainable tool for students who might have to make difficult choices with their money that could leave them without enough food.

Serafini has announced that he is allocating $25,000 of his $50,000 annual donation for the food pantry. In conjunction with the student giving project, this will triple the impact of every gift of five dollars or more made by any IUP student, up to $25,000. Wade is featured in an upcoming video to kick off the November 27 Giving Tuesday challenge, when IUP hopes to raise $10,000 in one day.

Wade hopes the food pantry is up and running soon, and thanks to her recent attendance at the Net Impact Conference, she said she feels energized to help her community, her country, and her world.

“I feel like this trip has made me more aware of social and environmental issues that are happening globally,” she said. “Being surrounded by so many individuals who are passionate about impacting the world has inspired me to do whatever I can to tackle the globe's social issues.”