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Penn students can shop at the University Square Farmers Market, just outside the Penn Bookstore, on Wednesdays. Credit: Avi Singh

Adjusting to living in a new area away from home can be daunting. While there exist a vast array of resources available in and around the Penn community, many students remain unaware of them. Much of the Penn student body has expressed interest in supporting local businesses, eating sustainably, donating their unused food items, and more, yet we observe lower participation rates due to this lack of knowledge. Utilizing this guide to all things food at Penn, students may find all the information needed to explore the many options available to them.

Food Insecurity Resources

For students experiencing food insecurity, one of the resources Penn offers is the Greenfield Intercultural Center (GIC), located just behind Pottruck Fitness Center at 3708 Chestnut Street. The Center has held many initiatives in the past, one of which was the Grab-And-Go food bags for FGLI students. This allowed students to pick up bags filled with food from the GIC free of charge. They also offer the GIC Pantry, which is in partnership with Penn Park Farm to provide students with free produce that can be picked up from their building. In addition to this, the GIC provides additional resources and initiatives for Penn students experiencing food insecurity — the information of which can be found on their website.  

Additionally, many students are unaware of the fact that if you qualify for work-study, which 40% of Penn students do every year, you may also qualify for food stamps to support your grocery shopping. Food stamps are a federal benefit designed to support lower-income Americans financially and ensure that everyone has access to healthy foods. In Pennsylvania, this is called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). On their website, you can find details on qualification as well as the online application. You do not need to go into an office, and upon completing their application you may receive access to your SNAP benefits in about 30 days. 

Sustainable Eating Options

Many Penn students would prefer to act cautiously in terms of dining due to the belief that their dining plan contributes to environmental harm in the broader Philadelphia community. However, there are a multitude of ways we students can practice sustainable eating habits throughout our time at Penn.

Penn currently participates in the Green2Go, an important initiative here on campus that works to reduce food and limit single-use materials such as plastic or styrofoam to-go containers. Unfortunately, many students are still not entirely aware of how this works. Penn students may pick up a green box from the swipe-in point at most of our larger dining halls. Just ask one of the clerks for your box, fill it up, and take your food to go! Whenever you are done, just rinse out your box and return it to one of the many Green2Go drop-off stations located outside of most dining halls. This varies from one location to the next, but generally you will find cardboard boxes labeled as Green2Go return spots just inside the building of each dining hall (between where you enter the building and where you enter the dining hall itself). Additional information about Penn Sustainability initiatives can be read about at this link.

Another sustainable eating option is the University Square Farmer’s Market, which is set up outside of the Penn Bookstore on Wednesdays. The Farmer’s Market allows students to purchase locally grown goods rather than mass-produced and land-intensive ones. Most excitingly, they accept Dining Dollars! You can find more information on their website. They are set up outside of the Penn Bookstore at 36th and Walnut Streets on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Some smaller actions you may take when dining on Penn’s campus may be opting for less water and land-intensive foods. For instance, Penn’s dining offers many vegetarian and vegan dining options at each dining hall that can help to reduce your carbon footprint. There also exist recycling bins spread all across our campus where you can dispose of any packaging you may have acquired through shopping at places like Gourmet Grocer. These are just a few smaller actions you can take in your day-to-day to help reduce your environmental footprint, and it is important to remember that some progress is preferable to no progress. Your eco-friendly actions are not going unnoticed.

Supporting Local Businesses

There are a vast array of local businesses in the Philadelphia community that many students may be unaware of. 

In addition to the Farm to City University Square Market, you can also check out the Rittenhouse Farmers market located at 1800 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103. This market is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and is just a 12-minute SEPTA ride away (just take line 13, 34, or 36 from the Upper Quad station.) 

If you are interested in a short 15-minute walk on the weekends, check out Clark Park Farmers Market! This market is located at 4300-4398 Baltimore Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19104 and is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday. They have fruits, vegetables, desserts, and even some non-food items. 

One of my personal favorites is Pita Chip, a Mediterranean spot located just a short 10-minute walk from campus. Some spots that my friends are big fans of include Rosy’s Taco Bar, Masala Kitchen, and K’Far. Rosy’s Taco Bar is the perfect Taco Tuesday spot located just about 25 minutes away from campus (via walking). Masala Kitchen is near Trader Joe’s; my friends and I love to go before or after grocery shopping, and it is surprisingly affordable! Last but not least, K’Far is located in Rittenhouse Square (about a 30-35 minute walk from campus), and is full of some delicious pastries and sandwiches — a great option for a Sunday brunch. Utilizing this directory, you can find small businesses to support in just about any neighborhood of Philadelphia.  

Affordable Eating Options

Last but not least, here are some resources to bear in mind regarding affordable eating options. Many sites and organizations offer discounted prices. One of these is Too Good to Go, a non-profit organization that minimizes food waste while offering more affordable eating options. Find more information on their website. A friend of mine raved about Too Good to Go and said she got Spread bagels for surprisingly cheap, among other things! Additionally, SnackPass offers various discounts on local restaurants to students, and you may even have a Penn peer with a SnackPass partnership! Their website provides more information, but do not forget to download the app! 

Finally, Campus Philly offers college-student-specific discounts all around the Philadelphia area. While they have many other exciting offers, they offer deals on food and drink from many partner organizations and are definitely worth checking out. 

With a student body as diverse as Penn’s, it is important to recognize that our students come from a variety of backgrounds, making it all the more pertinent to ensure students are aware of affordable eating options on and around campus. Going forward, I encourage you all to revisit this guide and the many resources offered within. Most importantly, if you come across a useful food resource, be sure to spread the word and help make our Philadelphia community just a little better… and tastier. 

EMMA SHOCKLEY is a College first year studying International Relations from Panama City Beach, Florida. Her email is