McMaster University students will soon join recent support to grow community outdoor coolers in Hamilton to combat food insecurity.

Run by the Student Union Food Collective Center, the food bank, and those working on the academic sustainability program, a 24-hour refrigerator is expected to be available to those in need by the end of January or February 2022 .

Zeinab Khawaja, a health promoter at the Student Wellness Center, says the project addresses the needs of McMaster students, but also anyone in the surrounding area.

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She says the starter group doesn’t have exact data, but she knows that hundreds of students have food insecurity issues ranging from not wanting to buy a meal on campus due to cost, to those working multiple jobs to pay rent and the enrollment.

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“So they just go all day without eating anything nutritious for their minds and bodies,” Khawaja told CHML 900. Good morning hamilton.

The collaborative wants to address a myth that suggests that college students are privileged and well off when, in fact, there is a subset that does not have significant financial support from immediate family.

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Khawaja says the group will use online funding through donations initially to get the program started. It is anticipated that later it will be able to go mainly to food donations from local restaurants and grocery stores.

“We have a shed that is being built to protect the refrigerator, freezer and pantry,” said Khawaja.

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“We are doing a design call for students to contribute designs and paint the shed prior to its launch.”

The McMaster Student Union program will mimic one launched by HamOnt Community Refrigerators in March it has three refrigerators across the city at Greendale Drive, John Street North, and Ottawa Street North.

Community Fridges volunteer coordinator Kelly To told Global News in late September that the idea has been growing in North America and is now becoming a fixture in Canadian municipalities.

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The Hamilton initiative was started with the help of Today’s Family Early Learning and Child Care as a direct way to address community food insecurity.

“Looking at what’s come out of the pandemic, especially with those in precarious jobs, food insecurity has been a historic record,” To said.

Currently, more than 70 volunteers manage the three refrigerators, which require cleaning and restocking up to two or three times a day.

“So the refrigerators are open 24/7 for the community and the… refrigerator itself is a shelter that contains a refrigerator… and a built-in pantry,” To said.

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Fresh fruits, vegetables, and frozen meals are among the items that are regularly stored in the refrigerator, while the pantry houses canned goods, menstrual products, toothpaste, shampoo, and dry goods.

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To says the program is always looking for volunteers and can even help those who want to set up their own refrigerator in a community.

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“We definitely encourage you to do so. We have resources available, ”To said.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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