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Photo by Scott Strasser

Campus food bank still struggling despite successful food drive

By Scott Strasser, March 21 2017 —

With growing demand and a $30,000 shortfall last year, the Students’ Union Campus Food Bank is ramping up efforts to increase donations.

The SU Campus Food Bank offers free food hampers to University of Calgary students, staff and alumni within two years of graduation. The food bank started as a student club in 1993, but later expanded into a subsidized SU program due to rising demand and popularity.


Members of SU Volunteer Services collected food items from March 13–16 // Photo by Justin Quaintance

From March 13–16, the food bank hosted its inaugural Spring Food Drive. Members of SU Volunteer Services and several campus clubs set up tables in MacHall throughout the week to collect monetary and food donations from passersby.

According to food bank coordinators Alison Iriye and Amy LeBlanc, the initiative raised $2,300 in monetary donations and 107 food items. Iriye and LeBlanc said the drive surpassed their targets and expectations. 

“This was the first time we were trying this event, so it was kind of a tester to see how it was going to go,” LeBlanc said. “It was really successful, so I think this is something we’ll be looking at for future years.”

According to LeBlanc, spring and summer are the toughest seasons for the food bank, making the Spring Food Drive an important source of donations.

“Our donations tend to get pretty depleted by the time September comes around. There are fewer people on campus and fewer people think about donating,” she said.

The food bank’s usage has doubled over the past two years, while donations have fallen.

The bank distributed 144 food hampers and fed 295 people in 2013–14 and gave out 312 hampers and fed 631 people in 2015–16.

Iriye said those numbers have steadily increased.

“From September 2015 to February 2016, we gave out 182 hampers and fed 444 people,” she said. “This year in the same chunk of time we gave out 255 hampers and fed over 500 people.”

The food bank saw some success with donations last semester after collecting $3,677 through the Bling Bling fundraising contest in September, but LeBlanc said it still hasn’t made up for the
increased usage.

“They’re not rising at the same rate,” she said. “We did have a $30,000 shortfall last year, so we’re still trying to get donations to get through that and get back in a comfortable range.”


Iriye and LeBlanc say the food bank’s woes could be tied to economic struggles // Photo by Justin Quaintance

Both Iriye and LeBlanc think that Alberta’s economic downturn could be the cause of the food bank’s recent struggles. They noted the issues at the U of C are consistent with those seen at the Calgary Food Bank, which saw unprecedented demand in its last fiscal year. 

“It’s pretty similar in that we have a lot of people that are struggling financially,” LeBlanc said. “That means [people] are going to need to use the food bank or cut down on their charitable donations for the year — both of which affect us pretty heavily and I think can be a pretty direct connection.”

The food bank has raised donations in recent years through fundraising events like Stop the Pop, Hunger Week and their annual Holiday Food Drive in November.

Last summer, the SU Campus Food Bank also participated in the President’s Stampede Barbecue and the Haskayne Dean’s Stampede Breakfast. They received 130 food items and $215 at the barbecue and collected 89 food donations and $35 at the Dean’s breakfast.

“We don’t get a lot of donations from those events — not nearly as much as we got from this Spring Food Drive,” Iriye said. “But still, anything helps.”

The SU Campus Food Bank is open seven days a week and is located in SU Volunteer Services in MacHall. The food bank accepts donations between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on weekdays.

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