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Hunger Week at University of Calgary May 10, 2011

Posted by gfsa in Community Stories.
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Hunger Week was a project that was initiated by the University of Calgary Meal Exchange Chapter but was hosted in collaboration with the Student’s Union and the Campus Food Bank March 21-25th, 2011.

This week was truly a dream that came into fruition only through the passion and new partnership that occurred. Our goals of the week were to essentially start a conversation between students, professors and staff at the University about what food security truly is and provide a tangible, relatable definition of such. We wanted to provide student’s with various tools to help make improvements to our society’s food system; not only aiding organizations that provide emergency food supplies such as Food Banks but bringing light to amazing movements such as urban gardening, slow food movements, community shared agriculture, community gardens and community kitchens that among others, provide sustainable solutions with longevity for the future.

Meal Exchange is a youth initiative founded in 1993 in Toronto, with the mission to to engage, educate, and mobilize youth to work with their communities in order to alleviate hunger and achieve food security. The vision is to one day see a country where everyone has access to safe, nutritious, affordable food. Meal Exchange puts on several events during the school year such as: Trick or Eat, an event organizing youth to go out into their community and collect non-perishable food donations. Last October, Calgary Meal Exchange collected over 6300 pounds of food and engaged over 200 volunteers! We also organize several days of service and reading week projects that involve the community.

Hunger Week Events Included:
The Hamper Project – Ever wondered what it’s like to live off a Food Bank Hamper? Participants like Students’ Union VP Academic Alyssa Stacey and Vice Provost (Students) Ann Tierney will know. Under The Hamper Project, they were joined by University of Calgary students and staff to experience what it is like to sustain yourself for a week on a food hamper provided by the SU Campus Food Bank.  We had a display set up on the main campus so student’s could a glimpse of what is included in an Emergency Hamper and participants blogged about their experiences all week (starting on March 18 and ending on March 25) Their blog posts can still be seen at http://su.ucalgary.ca/hamperproject.  Participants came together for a panel discussion on March 25. This was an opportunity to hear first hand some of their surprises, challenges and realizations as they reflected upon their experience of living off a hamper.

Monday:
Stomach This! – On Monday, the week kicked off with Stomach This!, a peer education workshop in which participants learned the difference between hunger and food security, impacts and barriers of these two issues, followed their food trail and were inspired to initiate change.
Do It Yourself – This event was followed by a “Do It Yourself” workshop in the Women’s Resource Centre and provided some insights into new techniques in permaculture and box gardening.

Tuesday:
Special Guest – We welcomed Paul Hughes. As a mayoral candidate during the 2010 civic election and urban chicken advocate, Paul Hughes has officially made his constitutional challenge to the city’s bylaw banning backyard egg-laying hens. Paul was also the founder of the Calgary Food Policy Council and continues to challenge common misconceptions about Urban Agriculture. Paul spoke to students not only about issues and opportunities within the city of Calgary related to urban agriculture, but also motivated students to find ways of changing the food system on campus.

Wednesday:
Resource Fair – students dropped by the North Courtyard of the Student Centre to see the resource fair – displays to learn more about who is doing what in Calgary around issues of hunger and food security and  how they could get involved and create change. Various community groups were on site to share their knowledge and answer questions.

Thursday:
Lunch and Learn – This session featured Nollind van Bryce, Manager of Communications and Resource Development at the Calgary Inter-Faith Food Bank. Students were given a basic introduction to the CIFB, some of the work that they do and a close up perspective on the daily demands of feeding those in need.

“Hunger Week was an extremely important movement on the campus because it not only bridged a common goal between organizations on campus but it gave students an eye-opening opportunity to see that food security and hunger are not one in the same. I hope that the week left students with the ability to think more critically about how their food gets to their place and what they can do for themselves and for others in the area of sustainability and food security”- Jenna Brockerville, Meal Exchange Co-coordinator

“I felt privileged to be able to witness a diverse group of students, from our Student’s Union President, to Campus Food Bank volunteers, to students having been personally affected by food insecurity and to those who were inspired to become involved in finding solutions to the issues. Hunger Week sparked a discussion on our campus and highlighted issues that had yet to be acknowledged which will encourage a collective approach to bring about change.” – Stephanie Soto, Meal Exchange Co-coordinator

This year was such a success we are looking forward to another Hunger Week in March of 2012! For more information on Calgary Meal Exchange and what are students are doing, you can follow us on twitter @CalgaryMealEx or e-mail us at: calgarymealexchange@gmail.com

Submitted by: Alycia Lauzon, Coordinator, Service-Learning, Centre for Community-Engaged Learning, University of Calgary

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