The University of Calgary Students’ Union (SU) launched a towering attempt to collect non-perishable pasta, all to address student food insecurity on campus.
The Oct. 5 fundraiser kickoff event at MacEwan Hall challenged donors to help build a tower of Mac ‘n Cheese that was taller than the University of Calgary Dinos’ mascot, Rex.
The SU food drive is being held throughout the month of October, with the goal of filling the Students’ Union Food Bank and hampers for those in need.
“The [SU] is working all the time to create events like these that will work to engage students also while creating a buzz to get more donations so that we can support the campus community with these initiatives,” said Shaziah Jinnah Morsette, vice president academic for the Students’ Union.
“Something like this is a lot of fun, we get to have Rex with us, we get to have some of the youth housing cheer squad out, and really just utilizing the space that we have—Mac Hall really is such a community hub for the campus for staff and students alike here.”
She said that the having people donate Mac ‘n Cheese and Kraft Dinner both serves to fill a staple need for students, and was a fun way of generating donations.
“We also encourage folks to donate monetary donations as well so that we’re able to purchase those fresh foods, those perishable items, and things that folks really need to round up their nutrition,” she said.
Donations of non-perishable food items are being accepted at the Mac Hall SU information office throughout the month of October, and money online through the SU’s GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/f/su-campus-food-bank-202223.
Addressing systemic food insecurity for students
Last year the campus food bank gave out 227 emergency hampers.
Student use of the food bank tends to spike in the first semester of the new academic year, said Jinnah Morsette.
“We do know that students typically access the hampers in September, considering whether their student loans have been covered yet, or they haven’t been paid for summer work either,” she said.
Jinnah Morsette said that part of the campaign was also addressing what food insecurity can mean to different students.
“That’s something that we have to recognize on our campus as well is that food security can really be different things to different people,” she said.
“While the campus food bank is one way that we offer support to the campus community in food security, there are also other needs that must be filled for students, considering what food security means to them.”
She said that the SU is advocating for the University of Calgary and community partners to find larger solutions for students.
“Inflation has hit our society quite hard as a whole, but truly students have been facing inflation for the last three years considering the increase to tuition, as well as a housing crisis, and just the overall increase in cost of living, especially the price of food,” Jinnah Morsette said.
It’s too early in the new academic year to determine if there will be a rise in the number of users. However, Jinnah Morsette said, they do know that the rising cost of food will impact their ability to deliver as much to the community, making donations even more important.
“Students really are facing a crunch between deciding whether they can pay for their bills, or choose to buy a meal that day,” she said.
“And we all know it’s critical for a learning brain that we’re fed and we can operate in a healthy way.”