Student initiatives, faculty research, and some local inspiration prompted an innovative way to alleviate food insecurity issues for students across the Mount Royal University campus.
In time for the beginning of the Fall 2022 semester, the Student’s Association of Mount Royal University (SAMRU) has worked in conjunction with the University to construct and implement five new food and hygiene pantries across campus.
Students’ Association Manager of Student Services, Lisa Antichow, recalls that the Care Cupboards program was inspired by students and by existing local models: “looking at research students shared with us, and at the same time hearing about local projects like community pantries and fridges, we thought we could improve on our existing food security programs by extending anonymous, convenient access to food and personal hygiene supplies across campus.”
A recent survey carried out by MRU faculty members revealed that 9.52% of all MRU students suffer from food insecurity with 75% of those who are food insecure responding that they are severely food insecure (skipping meals, unable to purchase food, sleeping to avoid eating, etc.). The study is one of the largest ever conducted in Canada and highlights the critical importance of the food security projects undertaken by SAMRU on campus.
Antichow mentioned that the Students’ Association has been working to address food insecurity on campus since 1995 when the first student food bank was opened. Noting that food security is a key ingredient for student success, SAMRU also facilitates food bank referrals and a Free Breakfast program for students throughout the academic year.
SAMRU’s main Care Cupboard lives within the Wyckham House Student Centre’s Peer Support Centre, where students can access support to receive food and a variety of personal hygiene items.
There are five Care Cupboards at various locations across campus:
- B wing 2nd floor
- EA main floor
- EB main floor
- MRU Library main floor
- Cougars Concourse (between recreation and wellness)
Re-stocked twice a week, the pantries feature both refrigerated and non-perishable food storage, microwaves, and essential hygiene and sanitation products. Students accessing the Care Cupboards are encouraged to take what is necessary, but to refer to the Peer Support Centre for more comprehensive assistance.
SAMRU’s Representation Executive Council (REC) President, Joseph Nguyen, noted that: “this effort to increase food security and access for all students couldn’t have been realized in this way without MRU agreeing to provide space for the cupboards, and for that we are grateful.”
Nguyen continues, noting that the program was not funded by student fees: “the SAMRU Care Cupboards are currently 100% funded by organizational fundraising efforts and our aim is to continue this funding model into the future.”
The campus community has been very generous and welcoming of this initiative, and while offers of food donations are appreciated, SAMRU will continue to purchase and stock the cupboards, so as to ensure consistency and predictability for students who use the service.
The Students’ Association of Mount Royal University is a registered charitable organization. Donations to this and other student-focused programs can be made online at samru.ca/donate.