UWSA launches emergency food hamper program

Student union exploring continuing emergency support options

Food insecurity affects thousands in Winnipeg. With the COVID-19 pandemic leaving people unemployed and businesses shuttered, an increased number of people have trouble feeding themselves and their families. But the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA) Foodbank is finding ways to provide emergency food delivery for students.

The pandemic has posed hurdles for local food banks like Winnipeg Harvest and the UWSA Foodbank to distribute canned and packaged food products to vulnerable communities. Some of the current challenges faced by these organizations are dips in food and cash donations, increased demand and reduced volunteer support.

“Food insecurity is a sensitive problem,” Binara Hewagamage, social sustainability manager at the UWSA, says. “This is the time that people need help more than ever, especially students.”

Despite the roadblocks and challenges, the UWSA Foodbank, in partnership with Winnipeg Harvest, continues to find ways to put food on the table for people in need. They’ve recently launched an Emergency Food Hamper program for University of Winnipeg (U of W) students, where they deliver hampers to students’ homes. 

“We made about 20 hampers from the food we had and delivered it to students in need,” Hewagamage says.

The hampers delivered to students included canned goods and hygiene products. Hewagamage says the “U of W security helped us deliver the hampers. They were really helpful. A big thanks to them.”

Initially set out to be a test, Hewagamage and her team are ironing out details and assessing the practicalities of whether they can continue with this initiative.

“Since we did this program for the first time, we are still figuring things out,” she says. “It’s a whole different process to deliver. We only did 20 hampers to see how it goes. It actually went well.”

The team at the UWSA Foodbank are currently planning the next steps of the Emergency Food Hamper program. The details and timeline for the next phase are still being determined, but students looking to benefit from the program can visit theuwsa.ca/foodbank for updates and registration. 

For those in urgent need, Hewagamage says: “There are multiple food banks that are currently in operation. Community members can register with Winnipeg Harvest by phone or by going in person to receive the required food support.”

For information and updates, visit theuwsa.ca/foodbank.

Published in Volume 74, Number 25 of The Uniter (May 1, 2020)

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