SU Campus Food Bank Celebrates 25 Years

August 1, 2018  |   Found in Editorial // SU Campus Food Bank

Tucked behind the Volunteer Services office in MacHall lies the Students’ Union Campus Food Bank (CFB), buzzing with the sounds of hamper packing and the low hum of its fridges and freezers. In its 25 years of history, the CFB has quite a formidable list of the vital role it’s played in improving the quality of student life on campus. The CFB started out as a student club affiliated with the Calgary Food Bank in 1993. The following year, the SU adopted the CFB as a key program aimed at providing short-term emergency food relief to campus members. These include both graduate and undergraduate students, staff members, and alumni and their families up to 2 years after graduation. Since 1994, the CFB has helped more than 10,000 individuals struggling with where their next meal is coming from with hampers that are nutritionally-sound and give peace-of-mind. With the launch of the Breakfast Program in 2013, the CFB provides free breakfast to students in need in the Q Centre twice a week.

Although the increased usage at the CFB in recent years is bittersweet and showcases the plight and reality of food insecurity on our campus, students and campus community members can take pride in the services that the CFB provides and the SU’s commitment to this very critical and much needed program.

The holidays are also a special time at the food bank. In keeping with the festive season, the CFB provides special hampers to campus community members with the necessary items to prepare a holiday meal, which can include a full-size turkey. The festive and charitable spirit extends to the Adopt-A-Family program that aims to match student families in need with community sponsors to ensure that their children’s holiday is a little brighter with a present or two. Just this past December, the Adopt-A-Family program had its busiest year on record. All in all, presents, large and small, were given to 70 children by 30 generous donors! The CFB also works in tandem with student clubs and campus groups to raise monetary and food donations for the organization through its Holiday Food Drive and Spring Food Drive. These friendly challenges have been highly competitive and spirited yet remains anchored in its goal of giving back to fellow students and instilling a sense of community on our campus. Finally, the CFB is a depot for the Good Food Box (GFB) program run by Community Kitchen. The aim of the GFB is to provide an affordable, locally-sourced, accessible option for fresh fruits and vegetables on campus. The GFB is definitely handy for students living in residence or individuals who just want to include more greens and fruits in their meals. Although the increased usage at the CFB in recent years is bittersweet and showcases the plight and reality of food insecurity on our campus, students and campus community members can take pride in the services that the CFB provides and the SU’s commitment to this very critical and much needed program.

Providing hampers to those students who need it most is only one part of the CFB’s mandate, but another equally important aspect of the program is to provide a meaningful experience to its volunteers. The CFB, much like the other programs under Volunteer Services. are entirely volunteer-centred. Only two part-time student staff coordinators ensure that volunteers are supported and that both the CFB and the Breakfast Program are in tip-top condition. The CFB aims to enhance student experience by providing an avenue for developing an individual’s skills and build lasting friendships whilst giving back on campus. Volunteering for the program also has the added benefit of breaking the academic monotony of lectures and studying for exams.

Having coordinated the CFB for more than a year and having been a volunteer for two, I can confidently say that being a part of the CFB has been one of the highlights of my university career. It is exciting to be part of a passionate and motivated group of people who wants to contribute and give back to their campus. In the 2016-2017 academic year alone, 37 CFB and Breakfast Program volunteers devoted over 2’100 hours to these programs. It is through my CFB and Volunteer Services families that I have made meaningful friends who have challenged and shaped my views, especially during my final years of university. The positive environment was contagious and I was able to build a support group that encouraged me whenever I needed it most. As a CFB coordinator, I appreciated the tireless efforts of my fellow coordinator, Gabby Wagner, and volunteers that guarantee that CFB remains an important program provided for and administered by the Students’ Union.

The future challenges and tasks facing the CFB are difficult, but not insurmountable. Rising client usage, which has doubled in the past few years, provides the CFB with the challenge of meeting increased demand. In its 25 years of service, the CFB and those involved in it have continued to work creatively in order to engage the campus community, and remain firm in its commitment to offering a service that is accountable to its clients and donors. Finally, without the continued support and generous contributions of its donors, the CFB would not be able to sustain the services it provides. Thank you to everyone that has made this organization an essential part of the Students’ Union and university community. Here’s to another successful 25 years!

 


Jonathan is a part-time SU Campus Food Bank coordinator and just recently graduated from the University of Calgary. He’s found his renewed love of reading especially fiction novels after only reading non-fiction during his time in university.