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Volunteer food bank provides relief to Georgian students in need

Shortly after his election as VP of sustainability, Krishi Ka Patel confronted by increase of college students attending Food Locker, to a peak of almost 150 requests per week

Krishi Ka Patel, a Georgian College post-graduate student from India, says he's exhilarated about the first upcoming monthly order from the Barrie Food Bank to the Food Locker program at the local campus.

“We have worked hard to finalize a deal that will be a huge development for the Food Locker program. The food bank’s wide networks and suppliers will play a vital role to our program,” said Patel, vice-president of sustainability at Georgian College Students' Association (GCSA) at the Barrie campus.

The Food Locker is a confidential, emergency food bank for Georgian College students, run by the GCSA at all Georgian campuses. The mission of the program is to provide temporary relief to students who require food assistance while providing opportunities for food security education.

As the person in charge of the Food Locker program at the Barrie campus for the past eight months, Patel has devoted his time to help ease the increase in food insecurity among students.

“I am concerned so much about that," he said. "I mostly have conversations with those students about what made them apply for a Food Locker.”

Patel said there were times when the program faced a food shortage and they had to go and buy groceries from the stores. Now the issue is about to be resolved as they partner with Barrie Food Bank.

“As a part of the collaboration, we are able to get monthly orders from them, and it will be easier to have the food items in stock and serve the students in time," he said. 

When Patel’s journey at Georgian began in the winter of 2021, he knew very little about the program. Patel said he went to the GCSA office to inquire about the program after seeing the Food Locker bags carried by some students.

“As I learned more about the program, I realized it is extremely helpful to students in need, in particular to international students like myself. Especially in the initial days after arriving here in Canada," he said. 

Shortly after his election as VP of sustainability, Patel was confronted by an increase of students attending the Food Locker, to a peak of almost 150 requests per week.

“I was confused and worried about why the requests went so high, but with the help of my manager and my team we were able to fulfill all the requests in time," he said. 

The Food Locker offers two types of grocery supports: vegetarian and regular. Each bag has around seven to eight meals, including things like canned food such as tomato soup and diced tomatoes, plus pasta, pasta sauce, oatmeal, granola bars, fruit cups, and beans. The regular bag also includes products such as tuna and chicken noodle soup.

The Food Locker program also partnered with the Barrie Good Food Box to provide students with boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables for half of the original price, with the difference being subsidized by the GCSA.

Patel’s volunteer tasks include checking the expiry of food items, along with administrative work like making the grocery list, scheduling pick-ups, and packing the actual Food Locker bags, on top of his other duties as a VP.

“I also have been able to plan a food drive, gather donations, stock items, keep track of requests, etc.,” he said. 

Patel said taking a leadership role in the Food Locker was exciting for the opportunity to bring enhancements to the program and better serve the students.

“By handling the Food Locker program, my team and I were able to make incredible developments to truly fulfill students' needs," he said. 

Patel explained that the Food Locker has its own app, where students can send requests anonymously as the first step to be a part of the program.

For more information about how to support the program, click here.