The University of Manitoba Students’ Union’s (UMSU) annual Holiday Hampers and Toy Drive program kicked off last week to assist students who have food security challenges throughout the holiday season.
The program, running for its 18th season, helps students and student families in need over the holiday season with a hamper that includes all the fixings for a traditional holiday meal.
However, Dara Hallock, UMSU vice-president advocacy, said the goal is not as much to furnish a holiday meal as it is to simply ensure students have food security over the break.
“I think it’s more about helping students have food on the table,” she said. “Yes, some items are traditional ‘holiday foods’ but the program helps students who have difficulty providing food for themselves and their families year round.”
“The toys are a special addition for families with children. Of course this aligns with Christmas, but not all families celebrate this holiday, so it’s more about spreading some joy.”
The hamper program supports more than 250 students and their families annually.
UMSU has issued calls for donations and sponsorships, encouraging students and faculty members to get involved in three basic ways: adopting a hamper, sponsoring a hamper, or donating toward a hamper.
Adopting a hamper includes purchasing the specific items from a provided list, packaging it, and delivering it to a student. To sponsor a hamper, donations of $200 for a small hamper or $500 for a large hamper can be made at UMSU’s office in University Centre. Collection bins have also been set up in University Centre.
All donations in cash and kind are welcomed by UMSU to get as many hampers together as possible.
Hallock said there is no specific criteria screening students requesting hampers. She said UMSU has sent out notices to students registered with the food bank and faculty advisors who may know students that are in need.
The toy drive, which is merged with the UMSU hampers program, oversees the donation of new and gently-used toys to families with children in the holiday season.
Hallock said the university community has been very supportive of the program and noted that more student groups than average have donated to this year’s drive.
“We set aside money in the annual budget to help cover the cost of additional hampers we may need to purchase,” she said.
“We have been trying to get as many staff and students involved in the donation process as possible, but there are quite a few requests and they aren’t normally all met by donations.”
Donation bins will remain in University Centre through December 12.