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Student union to open food bank

by Archives September 30, 2008

The Concordia student union is planning to open a food and clothing bank in October. While there are already free lunches provided to students on both campuses, the CSU said this doesn’t go far enough.
“Some people need a free lunch, but some other people need more help,” said Jose Garcia, CSU VP Services. “It’s important to let students focus on their academic development instead of where their next meal is coming from.”
While the CSU will be asking for donations from the Concordia community, money for the food bank has already been budgeted so that it will able to run without any donations.
“We understand that the more donations we get, the more students we can serve,” said Garcia. “Here is where our plans for outreach into the community, such as an upcoming food drive, come into play. Many students have said they would be happy to donate, which is very encouraging.”
Garcia says during the fall semester they plan to give out 100 baskets per month, while the clothing bank will depend on the amount of donations they receive.
Concordia already has two programs for students who don’t have enough money for food.
“We’ve had a student emergency food fund for many years, which actually started as a Christmas hamper program but, we found there was a year round need,” said Rev. Ellie Hummel of the Concordia multi-faith chaplaincy.
“Over the course of summer, we had several students coming in daily and obviously this increases when the school year starts,” said Rev. Hummel. From May through August, the emergency food fund gave roughly $12,000 to students in need. Between Sept. 1, 2007 and Sept. 24, 2008 the fund distributed $41,002.92 in over 153 visits.
The fund gives students gift certificates from grocery stores, up to a maximum of $150. The amount given is based on the students’ individual needs and takes into account loans, jobs, family support and whether they have dependent children.
The university also distributes food aid to needy students. “The financial aid and awards office gives out some money, not a lot, to the [Concordia council on student life] for those in dire need,” said Concordia spokesperson Chris Mota. In addition to food vouchers, the financial aid office also gives out vouchers for pharmaceuticals. The vouchers are distributed in $50 amounts totaling between $2,000 and $3,000 every year. According to Mota, each case is judged on its own merits.
But the CSU says that students aren’t comfortable using these existing services and that their food and clothing bank will be more welcoming.
“A lot of students feel, from feedback we’ve received, a little awkward and uncomfortable to go to the university financial aid office and say, I need help, I need some assistance,” said Elie Chivi, CSU VP communications.
Unlike the financial aid and awards office, the CSU food bank will not ask students to fill out an application form, instead allowing any student to take advantage of its services.
“How do you identify students in financial need? You may be going through difficulty this month, but next month you are fine,” said Chivi. “All our services are open for everyone and if anyone feels like they are in need, the food bank is open to them.”

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