Sofia Carreno (right) with Elizabeth Carnall.

Keeping staff employed during the pandemic has been a priority for Penn Medicine and HUP leadership, but other external COVID-related factors, such as the loss of a spouse’s job or children no longer receiving lunch at school, often place a strain on the family’s finances. Suddenly, food insecurity — an inability to afford or access enough nutritious food to sustain a healthy life —has become a reality.

The HUP Pantry provides a way to help supplement food for those HUP employees who were now facing this uncertainty. Modeled after the “Pennsy Pantry,” which distributes food to employees at Pennsylvania Hospital, HUP’s pantry is open to any employee who comes to the distribution site on Founders 3. Each bag contains enough nonperishable food to “feed at least a family of four for one day,” said Sofia Carreno, MSN, Nursing Professional Development specialist - Community Engagement, who oversees the program.

How It Got Started

Jessie Reich, MSN, director of Magnet Strategy, was instrumental in planting the seed for the HUP Food Pantry and pulled together a team to get the initiative up and running, which included Aron Berman, assistant executive hospital director for HUP Operations; David Cribb, director of Volunteer Services; Frank Connelly, assistant executive hospital director for Physical Plant; and Joe Forte, director of HUP Security. Together they identified easily accessible locations for the drop-off bins for donations (the White Building employee entrance on Spruce Street, the Nursing Renewal Center on 2 Donner, and the hospital cafeteria) as well as a space where donations could be safely stored and handed out: Plaza A on Founders 3.

How to Help

The HUP Pantry is located on Founders 3 in Plaza A (right above the cafeteria). It is open to employees to pick up bags of food on Wednesdays, from 7 am to 3 pm. 

If you’d like to donate money to the HUP Pantry, go to 

To volunteer in the Pantry, go to

Once the call for donations to the HUP Food Pantry went out, food and monetary contributions (including gift cards) started pouring in, including a generous donation by the Board of Women Visitors. “We have partnered with AVI food service vendor to have them deliver food to the pantry that we purchase with the donation money,” Carreno said. They also put out a call for volunteers to help stock items on the shelves and assemble the food bags and several employees stepped up to the task.

Then, three days before the HUP Food Pantry opened “for business” on May 27, Nursing put up flyers to circulate the information across different departments. It started slowly on opening day, nine people came to pick up a bag. But, by the third day, more than 100 employees were lined up. Today, up to 140 employees come every day.  As of the end of August, “we had distributed more than 1,900 bags to employees in need,” Carreno said.

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner in Each Bag

Each of the food bags is assembled according to best nutrition guidelines. For example, a sample bag might include a box of oatmeal and applesauce for breakfast; peanut butter, canned chicken or tuna fish, crackers and juice for lunch; and canned beans, canned greens, and spaghetti and sauce for dinner. “We will also include small items such toothpaste and shampoo, feminine products and diapers,” Carreno said, as well as a Philadelphia Food Resource guide, which can connect families in need to more accessible and long-term services.

Donations continue to come in from staff and, with the uncertainties surrounding COVID, Carreno said they are working with departments and other Penn communities to make the program sustainable long term.

“We try to make people coming feel comfortable,” Carreno said, “and the employees are so appreciative. That’s one of the best rewards of starting this. It’s a great opportunity to directly serve our own family at HUP.”

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