While issues surrounding poverty continue to be debated at City Hall, a student group at Victoria College is making an immediate difference.
Students living in residence often reach year’s end with unused credit on their meal plans. Students Against Hunger (SAH) converts donated meal credits into bagged lunches for the homeless in Toronto.
Olivier Sorin, a former don at the Margaret Addison residence, recalls the meeting in fall 2003 when students on his floor conceived the idea. “We realized that students didn’t have great riches,” he says, “but had intangible resources. We had our time, our energy – and we had these meal credits.”
In partnership with the Burwash Hall cafeteria, Sorin and the founding executive members created a meal credit bank, and the donations began pouring in. They haven’t stopped. Last year, SAH distributed 50 meals each week, through the soup kitchen at nearby Church of the Redeemer. Since the group’s inception, students have delivered thousands of meals to those in need.
This year is SAH’s fifth anniversary, and plans include reviving a popular program that sees volunteers deliver meals and mentor elementary school students at several Regent Park locations. During the winter term, they’ll also resurrect the “university for a day” experience, which brings these same children to U of T to learn about options for post-secondary education.
For many Vic students, donating through SAH has become a normal part of residence life. Sorin (BSc 2003, MA 2004), who still volunteers with the group while completing his PhD in French literature, can see that the direct approach is still paying off. “When I walk along Bloor Street in the dead of winter, and see a homeless person with a Students Against Hunger bag, I know we’re having a positive impact on someone’s life today,” he says. “And I know that other volunteers see that too – that’s why they still get up at 6 a.m. to bag lunches, that’s why they still knock on doors to drum up donations. When you put these small things together in a big group, you can do incredible things.”