If you’ve been to a brick-and-mortar campus, one of the sad things you may note is that many universities now have food banks right on campus. The simple act of having enough food to eat is so difficult for many students that it makes sense for there to be a food bank present.
AU has a different demographic, but still has some of the same problems. But how can you do a food bank when your students are spread across the country? The answer is simply that you can’t.
So what AUSU has done is something different. As AUSU President, Stacey Hutchings, wrote me, “The virtual food assistance program was developed as a pilot for us to gain insight into AU students’ needs and how to provide for those needs given AUSU’s resources. We have created a program that will help students, but most importantly, we want to connect students with local resources to ensure that they know where they can go to gain more support. After a student applies, they are sent information on local food banks – this resource list is ever-evolving. We are trying to tackle a very place-based issue in a virtual environment.”
That said, it’s more than just a resource list, if you apply, you can receive a $50 gift card that you can use at a grocery store in your area. The process is extremely manual, as at the end of each month AUSU makes a drawing of all the applicants who applied that month. Five people are chosen, typically from a pool of between 12 and 18 applicants. They are contacted and asked what grocery type store they tend to shop at, and then the gift card is purchased and mailed (or e-mailed if possible). Of course, it’s no good if you’re in an emergency, as it takes time to do all this, but that’s what the resource list is for.
Executive Director, Jodi Campbell, informed me that he is hoping to double the amount of winners each month, and perhaps even be able to increase the amount given in the next year. Personally, I hate that this program needs to exist. But I’m very glad it does.