The University of Calgary Campus Food Bank can act as a safety net for those in need at the U of C. During the holiday season, the CFB will be distributing special food hampers to those who struggle to afford a holiday meal.
According to CFB co-coordinator and third-year biology student Gayathri Wewala, the hamper program is an exciting addition to the regular services that the CFB has to offer.
“This year, we have the holiday hamper that we just started. It goes from November 26 all the way to December 14,” said Wewala. “Basically, clients request a special holiday hamper, which is a festive dinner. It has a turkey, yams — all sorts of nice holiday food items like that.”
The program has had a strong response from people seeking help.
“We have about 17 families who will so far receive a hamper,” said Wewala. “It’s a nice addition to our other activities.”
CFB co-coordinator Shawnee Belleville said the program began in 1993 by a group of U of C students who formed the Student Food Action Committee to help struggling students. Since then, the program has grown to be more integrated with the U of C.
“When it started off, it was just a hole in the wall,” said Belleville. “It was eventually decided that the Students’ Union would take it over and then, from there, it has grown bigger and bigger.”
The CFB operates out of volunteer services in the MacEwan Student Centre, providing food for members of the campus community. According to Belleville, clients are guaranteed a nutritional hamper in exchange for some information regarding their situation.
“A client will come in and then we do hamper requests, so that will involve getting personal information from them, like why they’re here and what their emergency situation is,” said Belleville.
This information is kept confidential, but is used to better understand clients’ needs.
“We like to know what kind of clients are in need and what their situation is. This way, we can more effectively reach those in need and serve them to the best of our abilities,” said Belleville.
CFB services extend to all members of the U of C community. However, over 90 per cent of CFB clients are full-time students who are dependent on either student loans or part-time jobs. Around 75 per cent of all clients that used last year’s food hamper were considered “emergency usage.”
“Most people are just students who don’t have money for groceries. Tuition is eating it up or rent is due and they’re left with no money for food,” said Belleville.
Once the initial consultation is finished, clients are given their choice of food.
“We then go through a food list, so they can choose what they want,” said Belleville. “We even have vegetarian hampers.”
Although they rely on fundraising efforts to keep the centre open, the CFB also receives money from the SU to help cover its operating costs.
“We get a lot of help during the holidays where we look for food donations and money as well,” said Belleville. “Everyone is always welcome to donate.”