130 students register in 1st hour of U of G's emergency COVID-19 food bank

The University of Guelph is trying to make sure students and faculty are getting the food they need but the demand is 'tremendous,' say volunteers

More than 400 students have used the school's food bank in the last 2 months

The University of Guelph established a COVID-19 Food Security Working Group to support students in need during the pandemic. (CBC)

The University of Guelph is making sure students and their families are getting the food they need during the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to a new working group, but the demand is "tremendous," say volunteers.

The COVID-19 Food Security Working Group was created to address food insecurity facing students who are without jobs, now that non-essential work places have been closed across Ontario.

It was one of the first concerns the group had, said Carrie Chassels, vice-provost of student affairs at University of Guelph.

"We knew those financial implications were going to be felt immediately."

They were right. 

"Within one hour, 130 students had registered with more than 90 dependents," she said.

Those students include people who live in Guelph year-round and some of the students still living on campus. There are approximately 170 people living at Univerity of Guelph: mostly international students, in residence, and 300 in family housing. 

Hampers, gift cards, food donations

The working group is made up of staff, alumni and the Guelph Student FoodBank and is focusing on two initiatives at the moment, said Chassels. 

One is to find ways to put food in students' hands through the school's hospitality service. The second is to to provide electronic grocery cards to students and faculty in need.

Individual students can receive grocery cards of $75 to $100 and those with families can receive more. 

U of G's hospitality services also put together 75 food hampers for students still living in residence and delivered them this past week. It also donated $32,000 worth of food to local food banks.

Chassels said the response from people who want to help has been "tremendous" since the school started to put together the working group last Friday — but so has been the number of students in need. 

Going forward, Chassels said the goal will be to get community partners involved to provider additional support and items to students and their families.

She adds students in need can email the Guelph Student FoodBank.