Full hearts, full bellies, full minds!
I am writing to you as an employee at (as well as a donor and supporter of) the University of Lethbridge, which is a liberal education university in Southern Alberta with approximately 9,000 students.
Outside of our usual job descriptions, a number of us on staff (representing Student Services, Alumni Relations, Development and Agility - an innovation zone/incubator/social entrepreneur developer) have been brainstorming to try to address a food security problem faced by some of our students that has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
A few weeks ago, bolstered with some support from our local Community Foundation, we began trialling a food hamper pilot program for students in precarious situations. We have developed an efficient working system and would like to ask for Field Law’s help in rolling this program out for the fall semester. This program would give those students the stability of knowing that their basic needs can be met for the semester, allowing them the capacity to focus on their studies as well as hopefully gaining steadier footing for continuing on with their degree in the new year. Ideally students receiving support would be able to discontinue receiving hampers due to good news: gaining employment, receiving scholarships, etc., otherwise we hope that we will give them time to bridge to a more stable and sustainable situation in 2020.
It would also allow us the time to re-think how we can deliver food-related supports, anticipating that full on-campus participation may not be possible for an indefinite amount of time. Suspending these programs made sense in the spring when it seemed to be a temporary measure, but we know that the need for food support does not end just because the campus food bank is closed.
Who Will it Benefit?
Many of our students at the University of Lethbridge are in very dire financial circumstances as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Co-ops were halted, summer job offers and part-time jobs were cancelled or delayed, and students have had to make immediate adjustments in their living situations. In other cases, international students were unable to return home, and were also unable to work due to conditions of their student visas.
Prior to this pandemic, a campus review found that nearly 15 per cent of students said they had gone a day without food because they could not afford any, and we know that as a result of the closure and restrictions to campus and its associated supports (i.e. ULSU food bank) that this situation will be even harder for some students this fall.
Before they begin their degree, students already know that they will face challenges and will sometimes struggle to balance competing priorities. There is never enough time or money to do and have everything you want while you’re a student. No student, however, was planning on having the Covid-19 wrench thrown into things, and we would really appreciate Field Law’s help in providing some basic needs so that these students can stick with it and persevere, rather than having to give up their educational goals.