A student-led organization at the University of Guelph is helping fight stigma and food insecurity on campus.
MealCare Guelph is a local chapter of a national organization that helps divert food waste on university campuses.
“We do that by taking delicious edible food that's going to be thrown out and diverting it to local food banks and shelters in our community,” said Sayan Ladhani, co-president of MealCare.
The group’s newest project is a community fridge in the University Centre that is available to students who need access to free food.
Tyra Boug, community fridge lead, explained any individual or business can donate to the fridge, but there are specific guidelines of what is allowed to be donated to due to safety guidelines.
For example, the fridge is only accepting fresh produce, non-perishables and food prepared in inspected kitchens. In addition, users must sanitize their hands and the fridge before and after use.
Users are also asked to fill out a contract tracing form, but MealCare Guelph has provided a QR code for users to allow for discreet access.
“You don't need to qualify for need or anything to use the community fridge,” Boug said. “It's very supportive for people who might be food secure today but not feeling secure tomorrow.”
Ladhani said this is one of the ways the fridge is fighting stigma surrounding food security.
“I think for the community, reducing stigma around that and providing access to everybody with no questions asked, is really important and a way to kind of start the topic and get the conversation going as well,” Ladhani said.
Jessica Seifried, co-president alongside Ladhani, said since starting her work with MealCare, she’s noticed the impact of food insecurity on students.
She mentioned how the student food bank being closed last year impacted a peer and how the community fridge has filled a gap for the students facing these challenges.
“It's just little stories like that that just like bring life to our passion project,” Seifried said.
Boug said the best part of the community fridge is that it still contributes to MealCare’s overarching mission – diverting food waste from landfills.
“It's perfectly edible food that would otherwise have gone to waste,” Boug said. “We're diverting it from the landfill and giving it another like another life, but we're also providing another resource for people who experience food insecurity as well.”
Boug also said anyone with questions about the community fridge can email email@example.com.