Food bank donation busts record

The SRC, who are partnered with the Wits Citizenship and Community Outreach centre (WCCO) donated the largest amount of food to the Wits Food Bank last week Friday. The Wits Junction House Committee (WJHC) donated the second largest amount of food cans earlier that day.  An average of 15 students visit the food bank daily and are mostly those who are self-funded or funded by NSFAS. The WJHC said they hope to continue to work with the food bank on a more regular basis and will be doing food collections at the end beginning of every month.

The Wits Junction House Committee (WJHC) contributed a record number of 270 food items to the Wits Food Bank last week. A new milestone, but only for an hour with the SRC and Wits Citizenship and Community Outreach centre (WCCO) donating a whopping 625 cans of food later that afternoon.

“I was ecstatic about the record-breaking,” said Tlotlego Ntshole, the WCCO campaign manager. “But it’s not so much about the record-breaking, it’s more about sustaining the food bank.”

Collections were done by all three organisations last week after the Wits Food Bank had nearly run out of supplies.

The 11 members of Junction’s house committee went door to door with boxes and bread crates and said the response from students was “great”.

Thami Pooe, SRC transformation officer, walked around campus with a bin and had help from other Witsies.

“We have a team of 16 volunteers,” Pooe said. “Each volunteer had 20 pledge forms and they approached students and asked them to pledge to bring two cans on Friday. Some people collected in Sunnyside, in Jubilee and South Point.”

Pooe added that this approach “created a big network”. Cans were also collected in bins which were outside the Matrix and FNB building.

“There are days when the food bank is just depleted,” Ntshole said. “Although this second campaign was big, we thought we’d be able to help a lot more students.”

Ntshole said that WCCO ran their own campaigns and drives but only collected one full bin, about 400 cans, earlier this year.

She added that WCCO decided to partner with the SRC after their first campaign and since then, have been able to contribute more food as they reached more students.

Similarly, the WJHC teamed up with Miss Varsity Shield, Buhle Someketa, after they were approached to assist keep the food bank stocked.

FULLY-STOCKED: The Wits Food Bank recieved two of its biggest food donations from the Wits Junction House Commmittee, the SRC and the WCCO last week Friday. Volunteers at the food bank spent the week unpacking the food items to help students in need. Photo: Riante Naidoo.

FULLY-STOCKED: The Wits Food Bank recieved two of its biggest food donations from the Wits Junction House Commmittee, the SRC and the WCCO last week Friday. Volunteers at the food bank spent the week unpacking the food items to help students in need. Photo: Riante Naidoo.

“We set dates and on those actual dates we went out with boxes and bread crates,” said Tlholohelo Mokgere, student development officer at the Wits Junction. She added that this was the only way to ensure they would make a concerted effort to contribute.

“We’re hoping to work with the food bank regularly and now plan to do this at the end of every month,” she added.

Ntshole said they keep a database of the students who come to the food bank. “An average of 15 students come a day,” she said. “Most students are on NFSAS or self-funded and live at South Point or are travelling students,” she added.

Mokgere said, “Surprisingly some students live at residences like EOH and Medhurst – catering residences.” She found this surprising and assumed people at a catering residence would find a way “to sort themselves out” but realised that people are “really battling.”

The food bank, which is run out the WCCO office, now has its shelves filled with cans of sardines, baked beans, rice, lentils and soups. Volunteers joined Pooe and Mokgere this week where they unpacked and tallied the food items.

“The students’ generosity was a shock at first, but this record encourages the SRC and WCCO to continue collecting cans and creating awareness,” Ntshole said.

RELATED ARTICLES:

The Wits Food Bank is close to empty

Done N’ Dusted: The Wits food bank is running low on supplies and appealing to Witsies to donate food for needy students.                   Photo: Tendai Dube

DONE N’ DUSTED: The Wits food bank is running low on supplies and appealing to Witsies to donate food for needy students.                Photo: Tendai Dube

The Wits Food Bank is running out of food. The food bank is a campaign of the Wits Citizenship and Community Outreach centre (WCCO) aimed at “managing food insecurity among students,” said Karuna Singh who is the manager of the food bank.

The initiative started in 2013 and provides students in need with toiletries and food.
Early into this school year, an email was circulated requesting staff to donate whatever non-perishables they could to the bank as it was nearing depletion.

The food bank left with only food parcels that are donated from Stop Hunger Now, but they need more.
“Those meal packs come with rice, lentils and soya mince, so it’s quite a nice nutritional pack but it’s six meals in a pack and it has to be cooked,” said Singh.

“You can’t possibly eat that every day – students want something faster so tinned foods are good, peanut butter is always brilliant – the protein,” Singh added.

The food bank has steadily been running out of tinned food and other necessities needed to supplement the food parcels they give out to students and as of this week they cannot make a single package, which usually lasts a month.

According to Singh, approximately 500 food parcels have been given to students since July last year, with “an average of eight students a day coming in to collect”.

“Usually the beginning of the year not too many students are in need as they have just come from holiday,” so the bank expects the need to only get greater.

“We have various projects at WCCO where we have groups of students collecting food. So whether it’s though their friends, family, on campus or through awareness days but obviously that can never be enough so we also look for donations through staff.”

Singh said she was hoping staff and students would do their best to help replenish the food bank if they are able to.

The food bank is run on a volunteer basis by Wits students and their offices are located at Student Affairs, Senate House, Room 37A or WCCO, Matrix basement.

RELATED STORIES:

Wits Vuvuzela, Seven percent of undergrads at Wits attending lectures without food, July 15, 2014

Seven percent of undergrads at Wits attending lectures without food

The Wits Food Bank is appealing to Witsies to assist students in need through donations. Photo: Wits Communications.

The Wits Food Bank is appealing to Witsies to assist students in need through donations. Photo: Wits Communications.

Seven percent of undergraduate students go to lectures without food each day, according to Wits Dean of Students, Dr Pamela Dube.

This figure is based on a study conducted in 2012 by Wits medical school students and on research by the Wits Student Affairs Office and campus security after students were found to be sleeping in university buildings.

The study, conducted by the Siyakhana Initiative for Ecological Health and Food Security, based its research on 387 undergraduate students and looked at 22 campus food points. Its aim was to “assess the food environment on campus, establish the food security status of undergraduate students and investigate the relationship between these two issues.”

“Usually, students who don’t have accommodation and sleep on campus also don’t have something to eat,” said Dube.

According to Dube, the numbers that they got were not as high as initially anticipated, but this was just “one intervention.”

“Some people will take away their blankets where they’re sleeping in the bathroom … or in the seminar rooms … or sometimes only blankets will be found and the person will never be tracked. People tend to also be watchful,” she said.

Seven percent of the students were either “severely or moderately vulnerable to food insecurity”

Seven percent of the students were either “severely or moderately vulnerable to food insecurity” and in some groups, a number of students experienced hunger.

27% of them knew of a fellow student who experienced hunger and more than half had personally experienced some impact on their academic performance, due to hunger.

Initiatives to assist hungry Wits students

The Wits Food Bank, started just over a year ago, is a campaign of the Wits Citizenship and Community Outreach centre (WCCO) and is aimed at curbing food insecurity among students.

It provides students in need with toiletries, clothes, food and if need be, a place to sleep, according to WCCO manager, Karuna Singh.

This year, the WCCO is using Mandela Day (18 July) as a way to encourage larger donations from the Wits community, with the theme: “charity begins at home.”

“We are asking staff members and students to donate food, toiletries and clothes to the Food Bank,” said Singh.

The division of Students Affairs, a partner in the Food Bank project, also works closely with a number of departments, schools and faculties to support students in need. “People do actually come, as much as they fear the stigma,” Dube said. “Our interest is that people perform well and are supported, which means providing them with balanced, nutritious meals.”

As part of a solution, there have been changes in meals catered for at residences, “as this is not just an issue for students in need.”

Students can receive food cards for the Matrix and the university has plans to create a day house where meals can be provided and healthy, mobile food stands around campus.

The Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) is also assisting hungry students as it recognises the impact on student performance.

The SRC are continously helping students with food security issues

“[We are] committed to ensuring that all our students are given the best possible environment to perform academically. For some students their poor performance is due to a lack of food and the SRC has interventions available to assist these students,” said SRC president, Shafee Verachia.

According to Verachia, the problem is so prevalent because of the sacrifice students make to come to Wits.

“Some are faced with horrendous circumstances which they try and deal with to make a success of life.” He also feels there is a lack of understanding by some students, who think everything will be provided for them when they get to university. “Nonetheless, the SRC is committed to assisting all of our students.”

The SRC has two ongoing processes available to students. The first is catering for students who have not had a meal in two or more days. The SRC uploads money onto their student card so that they can go to res and get a meal, just like any other student. The second is through the provision of food packs for students who can prepare meals for themselves.