There are a lot of fun things to talk about when it comes to food. However, food insecurity is not one of them. For a growing number of students at MacEwan University, though, it is an ever-present concern. When times are tough, students can turn to the Students’ Association of MacEwan University (SAMU) and apply for a hamper from the Student Food Bank.
Over the years, students’ use of the Student Food Bank has “greatly increased,” according to David Beeson, Student Food Bank coordinator. From 2014 to 2015 alone, he says that the service has seen a 47 per cent increase in access. He attributes this large spike in use to issues such as recent dips in the economy and to increases in tuition.
As a result, the Student Food Bank has had to tweak its operations slightly for the new school year. For instance, gift cards amounts have been scaled back from $20 to $15 in order to help more students, and there are plans to phase out the cards altogether. SAMU staff members say that this move will allow the Student Food Bank to acquire more food for its users than they could get with a gift card.
This information could potentially be confusing — or even meaningless — for those who are unfamiliar with what the Student Food Bank does. Fortunately, Beeson has a succinct explanation about the service.
“The [Student] Food Bank is a service that’s run by SAMU that assists students who need help with subsidizing their grocery bill, really,” he explains. “It just kind of alleviates about a week of groceries.”
According to Amy Beard, SAMU vice-president operations and finance, the Student Food Bank at MacEwan has been around for about 20 years. Jaime Beagan, the SAMU student services manager, adds that the service was started through Peer Support. Six years ago, Safeway gift cards were added to the mix to further aid those in need, says Beagan.
The space used by the Student Food Bank has also increased. Initially, says Beagan, it was run out of the Peer Support room. However, after many years, room changes and expansions, the service has gotten substantially more space in which to operate. In fact, MacEwan gave the service two enclosed parking spaces in addition to its other, more accessible spaces.
Staff members involved with the Student Food Bank say that the service is easy to access. Students can request a hamper at SAMU’s main office at City Centre Campus, located in Room 7-292. For students at other campuses, the service is also available in Room 201 at Centre for the Arts and Communications and in Room 142 of Alberta College Campus. Alternately, students can fill out Hamper Request Forms online — however, Beagan says access through the main office at City Centre Campus is much easier.
People can donate to the Student Food Bank by depositing non-perishable food items into the blue Student Food Bank bins found throughout the university’s campuses. Additionally, the service holds food drives throughout the academic year. This year, Beagan says, these drives will likely be focused on collecting specific food items.
Trick or Eat is one event that the staff hopes to organize. Currently in its early stages, the event would have the Student Food Bank staff members team up with the University of Alberta and NAIT to dress up in costumes and go door-to-door for food donations. Beeson says that the Student Food Bank team would hope to have this event sometime in October, around Halloween.
Donations are not the only way for students to assist their food bank. Those who wish to volunteer for the service can go to the volunteer page of SAMU’s website.
“We’re always in need of volunteers,” says Beeson.
Photo by Madison Kerr.