A university student and staff member are joining forces to face the challenge of a lifetime – climbing Snowdon to raise awareness for a local food bank.
Lisa-Marie Graham, a Social Welfare, Law, Policy and Advice student at Staffordshire University, is a volunteer at the Students' Union Foodhub – a resource which aims to help any student who finds themselves without food and in need of some assistance.
The Foodhub is operated by a team of student volunteers and supported by Students' Union, and although it has been operating since 2013, many staff and students are still unaware of its existence and the vital work it undertakes.
Louise Chatfield, a Retail Manager for Staffordshire University, was one such staff member, who following a chance conversation at the University Awards ceremonies in July 2016, agreed to help Lisa-Marie raise awareness and funds for the Foodhub.
She said: “Lisa was telling me about the work that they do in between helping with the catering team at the graduation ceremonies. I didn't really know anything about it before then, but after hearing how vital the funding was, particularly for students with young families who have been struggling, I wanted to help get the message out in any way to try and make a real difference.”
“Together we came up with the idea of doing something really out of our comfort zone, and decided the hardest thing for us to do would be to climb a mountain.”
The pair have now begun training in preparation for the big climb, taking place on Thursday 23 March 2017.
“I have actually done similar challenges a few times,” said Lisa, “however climbing Snowdon together will be a massive challenge as neither of us have trained for anything like this, and until a couple of weeks ago, we hadn't even signed up to the gym!”
“When they heard about our situation and why we were taking part, the University agreed to sponsor us with gym membership and help and advice from a personal trainer, to make sure that in the week's leading up to the challenge we are at our best, both physically and mentally.”
The dynamic duo have set up a fundraising page where people can make donations to support the cause, and 100% of the funds raised from the challenge will go directly to the Foodhub.
However, they say that although funding is essential, their main reason for doing the climb is to raise awareness and increase food donations to ensure this stretched service can operate to its full potential and help as many people as possible.
Lisa explained: “Until November 2016, the Foodhub was run by the advice centre staff. This meant valuable time was taken from contact hours and the service was not being promoted as much as it could have been due to time constraints on the advisors.”
“Food poverty is a growing problem amongst students. This could be due to welfare reform - those students that had Disability Living Allowance are now having to apply for newer benefits and are no longer meeting the tougher descriptors. Also a lot more mature students are coming back into education - this could be due to the higher retirement rate or generally the job market. Student finance problems have a massive impact on students too - delays or incorrect information being the main cause of problems.”
Food poverty is just the tip of the problem. More often than not, students in need of food also face other problems such as high debt due to rent or fuel costs. This can have an extremely negative impact on other areas of their lives, causing poor academic engagement, motivation, low self-esteem, mental health issues and the physical effects of not eating regularly or properly.
Lisa added: “The Foodhub is largely funded by the students union - money meant for other areas such as club activities. It is my aim to get the Foodhub running at the minimum of 75% donations and fundraising in the next 12 months, and beyond that 100%.”
“We are always in need of donations of non-perishables, such as tinned foods; variety packs of cereals; tea; coffee; UHT milk, and sanitary products such as shower gels; shampoo; conditioner; toothpaste; sanitary towels and tampons.”
If you would like to support Lisa and Louise by sponsoring them to complete the challenge, please email Louise at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or to find out more about the Foodhub and how to donate food or cash for supplies, please visit: https://www.staffsunion.com/advice/foodhub/