Camosun College is welcoming students back to school this week and offering a helping hand to those in need during the pandemic.
Weekly care hampers, featuring an abundance of nutritious fresh produce, tasty prepared meals, essential hygiene products, and even easy-to-follow recipes, are available to any student who requests them—on a first-come, while hampers last basis.
Every Thursday since Aug. 13, volunteers from Camosun (wearing masks and physically distancing), pick up 30 hampers at a volunteer hub location in their neighborhood and deliver them directly to students at their homes, putting both safety and the needs of students first. The many Camosun volunteer drivers make this seamless, COVID-19-conscious process possible and see the drop offs as a chance to connect with students and to show support.
The program has been a huge success so far.
“It’s been brilliant, absolutely brilliant,” explains Steve Walker-Duncan, Camosun’s Culinary Arts Chair, whose students in the training kitchens at Interurban campus have been busy preparing meals, soups, and baked goods for the hampers each week. “The students are really taking care of it so it was all packed and ready to go before I even arrived this week. They are quite excited to be part of something like this, because they’re helping their peers.”
Camosun care hampers are made possible by a generous donation from the Camosun College Student Society (CCSS) and the collaborative partnership between Culinary Arts and Camosun International, with in-kind donations from Co-operative Education and Career Services (CECS), the Print Shop and Camosun Bookstore.
Generous community partners include B&C Foods, South Island Farm Hub, and The Mustard Seed Food Security Distribution Centre, all supplying fresh food each week. In addition, the Culinary Federation Victoria has donated hot sauces and jellies made in the Culinary Arts kitchen. The Camosun College Student Society Food Bank and Government House of British Columbia have both supplied enormous amounts of dry goods and other products. The South Island Farm Hub and Mustard Seed are supplying the fresh produce, including eggs, meat, fish, a whole range of fruits and vegetables and even herbs and spices, with a different selection each week depending on availability. Students from Culinary Arts are assisting in the coordination and preparation of baked goods and hearty soups that can be frozen and reheated.
One of the first recipients was international student Maria Thomaz from Brazil. Thomaz, her husband, and their two young children arrived in Canada only two months ago, in the midst of the pandemic, after a number of COVID-19-related logistical and flight challenges pushed back her original arrival date in April. She starts her post-degree diploma in business administration (marketing) at Camosun this week.
Thomaz was delighted to receive the hamper and to taste some vegetables neither she nor her family ever had before.
“It was my first time trying squash,” she says. “There were other vegetables I had never tasted before or didn’t know the name in English. It was a good experience, not just for me, but for my family because we opened Google lens to try to figure out the names of these things before we started to cook. We wrote the new names and put them on the fridge so we would remember and learn these new words.”
The program is a “win-win” for both students who receive the hampers, and the Culinary Arts students in training who prepare the meals each week. “They’re getting their professional cook training in the time of COVID, when we don’t have an active cafeteria and we’ve limited access to customers for utilising our food services,” explains Walker-Duncan. “We’re really trying to consciously create simple and very adaptable recipes, for coleslaw or pasta for example, and then suggesting adding things like cheese and fruits and different vegetables. It’s about creating ideas that they can play around with and learn to cook with what they’ve got on hand.”
Included in Thomaz’ hamper was a recipe for Ratatouille, which she and her family made and enjoyed together. “It was good, very good and healthy,” she says, expressing enthusiasm for trying a dish that was completely new for her family.
Thomaz appreciates the support of Camosun at a time when she and her family are adjusting to a new life in Canada. “The support we are receiving made me remember how hard it was getting here, but reminds us too that it’s working,” she says. “I feel like I have support, and that I’m not alone. My daughter was so happy too, and she had this idea to make a little drawing to say thank you to the volunteer who came here with the hamper.”
Currently, the initiative will run until Sept. 24, for a total of seven weeks and 210 hampers. With the continued support of Camosun volunteers and community partners, and the generosity of public donors, the Camosun volunteer team hopes to extend the hamper program in the coming weeks to reach as many students as possible.
To financially support the care hamper program (a donation of $45 will cover the cost of each hamper), please contribute online through the Camosun Foundation.
For students, please apply using our online form. The first 30 applicants each week will receive a hamper and be contacted in advance to confirm delivery times and details. Please apply only once (or wait at least a couple of weeks before applying again) as Camosun would like to ensure as many students as possible benefit from the program.
For potential Camosun volunteer delivery drivers, if you’re willing to lend a (physically distanced) hand, then please send your name, a copy of your driver's licence, and desired delivery neighborhood to email@example.com and sign up for volunteer shifts.
Established in 1971, Camosun is one of the largest colleges in British Columbia with campuses on the Traditional Territories of the Lekwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples.