With that in mind, the Students Association organized a local city food drive and handed out orange tickets emblazoned with “Trick or Eat” for those Medicine Hat donors who gave food.
Rhonda Parahoniak, co-ordinator of residence and one of the organizers of the event says three SUVs were filled during the evening which hauled around willing volunteer staff members. They hit three Medicine Hat neighbourhoods near the college including Connaught, Marlborough and Southridge. Parahoniak says most people were generous and in fact even gave a small bag of food. One household donated a case of canned goods.
“Given the economic climate, most people were (understanding) ... people were very generous,” explains Parahoniak, adding there wasn’t any specific requests to do a food drive, but organizers felt it was a good time to hold such an event.
Peer Support Co-ordinator Stephanie Power says the late October event went well, which is good because it was needed. It’s the first time they had done a Halloween time event.
“Our food bank has been busy (already),” explains Power who says they are getting anywhere up to five people per day on campus. “We give out three days worth of food. Besides the food intake, we see if they need any referral services (student financial officer at the college for example). We weigh the food to (measure it out). Generally, it's a huge rush on Friday. A lot of students don’t know if they’ll make it through the weekend until Monday.”
She says they will provide referrals to counsellors, financial experts at the college or anyone they can utilize to help with those in desperate need of assistance.
Power says this year is worse than last year, at least in the initial stages. She points to the fact there was not a lot of part-time or full-time jobs and many jobs that are usually filled by post-secondary students were filled by those adults unemployed.
She adds she’s noticed a larger number of mature students, many of whom are unemployed petroleum-based workers taking college courses. While not official statistics, she adds it’s difficult to determine if there are more Medicine Hat versus non-Medicine Hat-based students requiring food bank services.
Regardless, it’s not a promising start to the year with so many students as compared to last requiring help.
For Power, the Students Association is doing its best.
“Food items, gift cards we provide students with to pick up fresh food (in $10, $25, and $50 increments depending on family size), and granola bars that we give out for free at the Students Association office,” explains Power. “We are able to provide non-perishable food items and granola bars to students by picking up weekly donations from the Medicine Hat Food Bank. The gift cards are courtesy of the 50-50 fund at Medicine Hat College. In partnership with the Medicine Hat Food Bank, we also have a ‘Bread Basket Tuesday’ where we provide students with free bread.”
This is not a new problem for students at the college or that the association is trying to help out. According to Power, the Students Association gave out 2,546 lbs of food between September 2015 and April 2016.
Power says there is generally a food drive held within the campus where the faculty and staff will bring food “when the cupboards go empty” and some staff will actually bring food on a weekly basis.
Power says because the Peer Support Centre within the Students Association office is relatively small for the demand, what happens is they will keep what they can on hand and then take what they don’t have room for to the Medicine Hat and District Food Bank.
“Then we can get food back and more as needed,” explains Power. “We do a weekly pick up on Tuesday ... We work with them and it helps them to know what students need.”
Power says the campus chaplin will also contribute food items as best as possible.
Parahoniak says there will be future food drives and they look forward to doing them again, although no dates have been planned as of yet.