BY MATTHEW EVANGELISTA
Conestoga Students Inc. has hired another employee and lengthened its Food Bank hours in an effort to keep up with increasing demand.
Funded by CSI in collaboration with the Food Bank of Waterloo Region, the service operates using a “hamper system” in which students who register are given a bag of emergency food and hygiene supplies once a month. The Food Bank also allows students to pick two extra items from its cabinet, which includes canned food, sanitary pads for women or snacks.
In September and October 2016 the Food Bank gained considerable and record attention from students. CSI estimated they provided hampers to over 100 students in November, and in January, at a board of directors meeting, members were told CSI handed out 23 hampers a day.
While CSI has refused to comment on the exact number of students registered for this service, they said that they are prepared for those numbers to grow.
However, even with longer hours, another employee and more dedicated funding, some people are concerned that some of the food being handed out is expired. CSI said they check with the food providers to make sure it’s safe and make it clear to the receiver of the hamper that the food is past the “best before” date.
“We get a lot of expired food from distributors. In all reality the landfills are filling up with food,” said Eleanor Patton, a longtime worker at CSI’s Food Bank who plans on working with food banks after graduating from Conestoga.
“If somebody’s really hungry they’re going to eat it,” she said.
Most food is vacuum sealed and good for six months after the expiration date, so rather than throw food away CSI leaves it up to the students to accept or reject expired food.
The library at the Doon campus allows students to donate food for their overdue library fees, and those donations are handed over to the Food Bank. Students are also invited to donate food to the bank which is located right by Door 3 on the Doon campus.
Students who find themselves in an emergency can register for a hamper with their OneCard at any of the campus’s food banks. The process takes about 10 minutes and all personal information is kept confidential.
“We do our best to let them (students) know that it’s completely normal, that it’s completely acceptable, that this service is there for them. It is an emergency relief service,” said Laurita Martynowski, CSI’s campus service co-ordinator.
The Food Bank also gives away free fruit at their offices and hosts a monthly Farmers Market. All dates for these events and the updated times of operation for the Doon, Cambridge and Waterloo campuses’ food banks are listed on CSI’s website, www.conestogastudents.com, under their food services tab.