Nina Mennies looking confidently into the camera
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A Pitt Urban Studies major won a fellowship for her work addressing food insecurity

  • Community Impact
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences
  • David C. Frederick Honors College

Nina Mennies, a junior in Pitt’s University Honors College and Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, has been awarded a 2022 Newman Civic Fellowship in recognition of her community-based research examining systemic gaps in food access.

The year-long fellowship, sponsored by a national coalition of colleges called Campus Compact, provides fellows with training and networking opportunities needed to create large-scale positive change.

“Nina has built a rich research portfolio related to food insecurity, why it occurs and which solutions work,” said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “I am incredibly proud of her success at the University of Pittsburgh and confident that, as a Newman Civic Fellow, she will continue advancing both her research and the field’s broader efforts in promoting food access, equity and opportunity.” 

“Food insecurity is a pervasive issue in this country to an inexcusable degree, and I feel a strong moral commitment to work towards more just and sustainable food access,” said Mennies, who’s majoring in urban studies and minoring in economics and applied statistics. “As a fellow, I hope to learn better strategies to engage with my community, and I’m looking forward to learning about what other fellows are passionate about. I’m joining a network of people committed to creating social change and learning from one another.”

Mennies said her family history informs her drive to address the root causes of food insecurity.

Born in Russia, she moved to the U.S. with her parents when she was six years old. As a child, she learned about the Siege of Leningrad, a Hitler-ordered blockade during WWII that cut off the Soviet city’s supply lines. The military action, which lasted 872 days, resulted in mass starvation. Some of her relatives were among the civilian casualties. Her mother also shared memories of living through an era of food shortages after the dissolution of the USSR in the 90s.

Mennies’ community-based research is dedicated to mapping the impacts of both government and street-level food aid in Pittsburgh from an organizational standpoint. Her goal: contribute to the growing field of food insecurity studies by influencing public policy that holds food access and equity at its core.

“The Newman Civic Fellowship is one of the nation’s most prestigious awards available to students engaged in public and community service. Nina’s work addresses one of the most critical issues of our time — hunger and food insecurity — and will tangibly change the lives of people in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County for the better. She is the true definition of a change-maker,” said Nicola Foote, dean of the University Honors College.


— Nichole Faina