Nov. 5, 2020

Student volunteers collect food bank donations in annual 'Trick or Eat' event

Surrounding communities donate more than 750 kg of food to Interfaith Food Bank and SU Student Campus Food Bank
LSE student staff sort and organize community food donations
LSE student staff sort and organize community food donations

Whether treats were slid down a makeshift tube, passed with a lacrosse net or tossed into pillowcases from a distance, the word to describe this year’s physically distanced trick-or-treating is undoubtedly "creativity."

Equally creative was the solution for the organizers of this year’s UCalgary Trick or Eat event — a Halloween-themed evening where costumed students canvass neighborhoods near the university for donations to the SU Campus Food Bank and Calgary Interfaith Food Bank. Since 2009, student volunteers have helped to combat food insecurity at a pivotal time of year for many in our community. With COVID-19, this year was going to be very different.

“The need to physically distance has made running in-person student programs at the university very challenging,” says Lindsay Desrosiers, the staff co-ordinator of the event. “We knew that face-to-face requests for donations would be impossible, so we made sure to get the message out early and in a big way.”

In addition to a flyer campaign that targeted 1,600 households in Varsity and University Heights, student staff member Nhat Vu also spread the word to community organizations and campus departments.

COVID-19 has placed an extra strain on the budgets and mobility of some students at a time of year that typically sees an increase in requests for food hampers, so the Trick or Eat team was hopeful the community would come forward with enough donations to meet the expected demand.

“The Campus Food Bank relies heavily on non-perishable food items from events like Trick or Eat to help combat food insecurity on campus,” says Ganiyat Sadiq, the SU Campus Food Bank co-ordinator. Many of the donations from the event will go toward filling emergency seven-day hampers that can be picked up by students, staff and recent alumni.

“As we see clients begin to return to the SU Campus Food Bank, we want to ensure that we’re able to support them in their time of need,” says Ali Bik, Students’ Union vice-president, student life. “We want to make sure that students know we’re open, and initiatives like Trick or Eat continue to be an important source of donations to secure the Food Bank through the winter months.”

On Saturday night, more than 750 kilograms of non-perishable food items awaited the 30 student volunteers who were dispatched to pre-assigned areas of each neighborhood. Pre-COVID student attendance at Trick or Eat ranges from 75 to 150 students, with food donations ranging from 650 kg to 900 kg — numbers that make this year’s 30-student achievement a remarkable one.

“My friends and I have been participating in Trick or Eat for almost eight years now… because we love being able to help those with food insecurity in our immediate university community by engaging with individuals in our own neighborhood,” says UCalgary graduate Monica Russell.

“All of us have had the support of our families through our university careers and have never once had to worry about food security. Knowing this has led us all to set personal goals, for both our university careers and beyond, to use our privilege to help others less fortunate than us.”

At the end of the evening, student participants took home group prizes for the best costumes and total food collected.

Students and staff who are interested in learning more about Trick or Eat or other campus volunteering opportunities are encouraged to visit the Trick or Eat web page, or view other related programming on the Leadership and Student Engagement website. For inquiries about how to donate to the SU Campus Food Bank, please visit their website.