The Peer Resource and Leadership Centre (PRLC) will launch the new food bank service at UFV, starting Sept. 5.
The program will help to provide students with easier access to basic necessities by creating a balanced food hamper for those in need, which will include servings of fruits and vegetables, dairy, and meat.
The PRLC will partner with the Student Union Society (SUS) to develop the food bank. It was previously run independently by the SUS, but they were not able to keep it running.
“I think the challenge has always been to find the right people, the right space, and the right programming,” Kyle Baillie, director of Student Life, said.
The SUS originally did not see the numbers to keep the food bank staffed and running, so chose to discontinue the program, SUS president, Gurvir Gill, said.
With the new partnership, the SUS will provide the space for the program, which will be located on the second floor of the Student Union Building on the Abbotsford campus. The location of the food bank will be convenient for most students, and the large space includes a freezer, a fridge, and plenty of shelving units which facilitates storage.
Start up costs for the program will be covered by a $2,500 award Student Life recently received from UFV. The food bank will partially be funded internally through the student health/wellness and experiential learning fees, and partially from the assistance of Coast Capital Savings through a community development grant.
There are hard start-up costs associated with running such a program and Baillie said that certain food items such as fresh fruit/vegetables and meat are difficult to obtain. Nevertheless, Baillie hopes that the PRLC will find ways to build relationships with local vendors and producers to sustain this program.
The collaboration with the PRLC and the SUS is expected to provide more staff in order to successfully operate the food bank.
“The SUS is open to working with other groups within the university on projects that are in the interest of students,” the SUS president Gurvir Gill said.
“[The PRLC] has the connection and the people, and we have the space,” he said.
Students in need will be able to access the food bank service by filling out an online form linked to the PRLC’s website. On the application they will provide their student number for verification purposes and list any food allergies or particular food items they are in need of, and the staff at the PRLC will prepare a hamper for pick-up. Baillie said that the aim is to keep the UFV food bank a low-barrier program so that people in need do not hesitate to request assistance.
The PRLC is still working on drop-off locations for donations, but food items are currently being accepted at the Student Life offices in Abbotsford and Chilliwack.
“The physical space is here, but we believe that we will be moving hampers on SUS shuttles and we will be able to get them out to Chilliwack to serve those students as well,” Ashley Ward-Hall, coordinator of the PRLC, said.
Baillie hopes to see the program expanded in the future to include “pay-what-you-can” community dinners.
“Ultimately, this would be a community building and community development opportunity, and also a fundraiser for the food bank,” said Baillie.
Baillie would also like to start healthy and sustainable cooking classes in partnership with Baker House, where small groups of 12–20 people would learn to cook budget-friendly, nutritious meals.
Image: The Cascade (photo of SUS food bank in 2015)