A new wellness campaign is raising awareness around food insecurity among university students.

The office of student success (OSS), under the faculty of health science (FHS) has been running a novel campaign, #MakeADifference, since June, which aims to encourage donations towards basic needs care-kits that include food and toiletry supplies that are given to Wits health science students in need, while simultaneously raising awareness of food insecurity in South African universities.

The #MakeADifference campaign was developed by master’s students in community-based counselling psychology (MACC), in partnership with the OSS, a student wellness department.

Erick Kabongo, a MACC student, says the campaign is intended to, “capture different aspects of a students’ well-being” and this includes ensuring access to basic necessities such as food and toiletries.

“Class issues vary and some students get access to things while others don’t. If we aid students with basics such as food and toiletry, we are allowing them to compete fairly within their academic pursuits,” says Boikhutso Maubane, a counselling psychologist at OSS.

Before the campaign launched, the OSS had a food bank that would receive donations irregularly and only catered to a small pool of students who expressed need. “What was important this year was being able to really provide for students, especially during these trying economic times in South Africa,” Maubane told Wits Vuvuzela.

Despite being disrupted by the covid-19 pandemic, the campaign has increased the visibility of the food bank to potential donors as well as students who may need support.

Since June, OSS has distributed over 70 care-kits and has recently received 74 care-kits valued at R200 through a single donation, which will be distributed to students for the remainder of the year. Care-kits consist of non-perishable foods and basic toiletries.

Anelisa Mofokeng , administrator at the OSS, says an average of 10 students fetch a care-kit when available from the office. Students are identified through the health science course coordinators or they approach the OSS independently. There are roughly 70 students who form part of the campaign’s database and receive an email when care-kits are available.  The office prioritises self-funding students when distributing care-kits but NSFAS students are not excluded from receiving aid.

Due to the pandemic, the campaign has been forced to function largely online, taking away the ability to engage with the Wits community. However, Maubane says the campaign has still managed to make a difference in this difficult time and it still has a lot to accomplish for the benefit of student communities.

FEATURE IMAGE: The #MakeADifference campaign supports health sciences students in need. Photo: Vetiwe Mamba 

RELATED LINKS: Wits Vuvuzela, Students society raises funds for shelters, July 2020.

Wits Vuvuzela, NSFAS students in catered residences to get food allowances, August 2020.