Nina Mennies is a third-year student at the University of Pittsburgh whose underrepresented background makes her particularly well-suited to understand the difficulties that people experience when undergoing food insecurity. Her work with community-based food services (most recently the Healthy Food Center administered by the Allegheny Health Network) grants her direct knowledge of the administrative context for this work, and key contacts that she can leverage as she develops her research on the overlapping spaces of food aid in the Pittsburgh region. She intends to draw on her existing networks to develop a study on the experience of food insecurity that can directly benefit the work of that organization while also building her capacity to understand how state, non-profit, and community-based food aid can generate more collaborative and resilient relationships in urban communities.
As a toddler growing up in Russia, my favorite make-believe game centered around giving out food to people in need. As I grew older, I became more consciously aware of my passion for fighting hunger, and I knew that I wanted to dedicate myself to understanding the root causes of food insecurity and working to eliminate systemic gaps to food access. During my time at the University of Pittsburgh, I have seized every opportunity to learn more about food insecurity, gaining knowledge that will continue to guide me as I work towards becoming an agent of change to combat hunger in the Pittsburgh community and beyond. I spent this past summer working with food-insecure clients at the Allegheny Health Network Healthy Food Center and am currently developing a research thesis that will survey SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Access Program) recipients and directly engage with food service organizations to map the impacts of both government and street-level food aid in Pittsburgh. The Newman Civic Fellowship will help ensure that my community-based research will contribute to the growing field of food insecurity studies by providing me with the tools to shape public policy that holds food access and equity at its core.