University and college food banks prep for students this fall

School just around the corner and even though there won't be as many students on college and university campuses, organizers with food bank services at Laurier, UW and Conestoga College still plan to run in the fall.

Food banks at WLU, UW, Conestoga College are looking at how best to serve students

Food bank coordinators at WLU, Conestoga College and UW are busy planning for the upcoming school year. Some are looking at trying different options to serve students. (Vanessa Blanch/CBC)

School is just around the corner and even though there won't be as many students on college and university campuses this year, organizers with food bank services are busy crafting plans for the fall.

Conestoga College's food bank service at the Doon campus in Kitchener re-opened at the end of July after being closed for several months due to the pandemic. 

The food bank has already received 47 applications for food supports and has delivered 24 food hampers since re-opening, said Sam Agpalo, a campus service coordinator with Conestoga Student Inc., in an email to CBC News.

The college's food bank has partnered with the Food Bank of Waterloo Region and also receives donations from the community and students.

She said plans for the fall may include using the school's shuttle bus system, doing pop-up days at other campuses or delivering hampers to students.

University of Waterloo

The University of Waterloo continued to steadily hand out food hampers every week, even during the lockdown, said coordinator Jessica Zhang.

Like Conestoga College, its food bank has only been operating out one location since March, packaging a small number of hampers every week.

Zhang said she hopes to keep that work low going this fall with additional volunteers on the ground, but the university's food bank program mostly relies on community donations and Zhang said more are needed for the fall.

"We have enough to get us through August, maybe early September, but with more students coming back for the fall term, we'll definitely need more food donations," she said. 

"Otherwise we'll have to ask from the regional food bank."

Wilfrid Laurier

In the meantime, organizers with the food bank program at Wilfrid Laurier University have been brainstorming several ideas to try out this fall term. 

Pre-pandemic, volunteers would normally go on grocery runs and take in donations from the community to assemble hampers.

Since the university closed in March, food bank coordinator Aqeel Urfani, said they haven't been able to do any of that work.

"Hopefully by September we're able to resume and make up for the time that we lost during COVID," he said.

Urfani said he and other volunteers are still working on a concrete plan for the fall, but one option is to simply give students in need a grocery store gift card.

He adds they also hope to branch outside of the university to help others in the community.

"Because of what COVID has done and the financial situation of a lot of people, we'll be anticipating a lot more [demand]," he said.

"My team and I, we're looking to partner up with the regional food bank and try to create an initiative where we try to help those less fortunate in the Waterloo community as well."


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