Volunteers at the Sault College Students’ Union food bank are working hard to keep up with the rising demand of students who are at risk of not meeting the appropriate nutritional requirements.
Now in its own building on the F-lot parking side of the college behind Odeno, the self-serve food bank aids well over 200 students every week.
Food bank coordinator Katie Clement says there’s usually a lineup outside their front door before they even open.
“Most of our items are nearly out of stock within the first half hour,” she says. “It’s a growing need in this community, especially when there’s students coming with their children and families.”
“With the price of groceries going up, it makes it that much more difficult.”
By providing their student number from the college, students can access the food bank once a week on Wednesdays and Fridays between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
“It helps ease their food insecurity,” Clement says. “Students already have enough stress with homework, exams, and the cost of tuition and books, so we try to help ease that.”
“This is a safe, welcoming place for them to come each week.”
Working within a budget which Sault College provides, Clement goes shopping on a weekly basis for a variety of basic and healthy necessities.
“It’s a constant upkeep,” she says.
Clement has volunteered at St. Vincent Place in years past, and she has noticed a significant increase in demand – especially for newcomers and international students.
“The majority of our clients are international,” she says. “We do have domestic students as well, but I’d say over 90 per cent are international who access the food bank.”
Specializing in Indigenous studies at the college, Jessica Dannrath has been volunteering her time at the food bank and helping Clement in a variety of capacities
She feels for the students who are struggling with food insecurity.
“Great brains need great fuel, and great fuel comes from good food,” she says. “When you’re trying to work three jobs, volunteer, do a placement, and do your clinical practice, you need fuel inside of you to be able to complete those.”
Operated by the Sault College Students’ Union, the food bank relies heavily on its partnership with United Way and Harvest Algoma, who provide Clement and her team with packaged goods, fresh vegetables, soup and bread.
Superior Bakery also recently started donating fresh bread.
“They’ve been phenomenal,” she says. “Their support means so much to us.”
While those partnerships are helping the food bank stay afloat, Clement notes she would love to continue expanding their outreach.
“We want to connect to local farmers and build relationships and partnerships with different organizations,” she says. “We’re also hoping to begin planting fruit and vegetables in the garden next to the food bank during the spring and summer months.”
“We’re always looking for new and innovative ways to keep the shelves stocked,” Dannrath adds.
While coordinating the food bank, Clement and her team also run a breakfast program on Thursday mornings inside the Odeno restaurant, where they serve cereal, muffins, granola bars, and yogurt.
Among her team of volunteers are Riri Caubang, Klaire Seblos, Ahmad Algouthani, and Simran Puthawala – all of whom are Sault College students who devote several hours of their week to help.
The team also organizes a career closet clothing drive so students can stop by to get outfits for work or job interviews.
The Sault College Students’ Union food bank is accepting food and clothing donations all year long.
Residents can drop off items at the food bank on Wednesdays and Fridays between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and Clement says she’s happy to do pick-ups as well.
She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 705-987-1657.
For more information on the food bank, visit here.