The AUTSA food pantry, named the Foodie Godmother, is where students can come and access household items and food whenever they need a helping hand.
Foodie Godmother came about after the former president of the Student Representative Council, Urshula Ansell, saw a high demand for campus kai. Every week, food was running out and the team were receiving requests for additional help. They were struggling to keep up. So, Ansell started talking to students about the need, many of them said that they faced challenges to make ends meet and to afford food, many having to make the decision to miss either a meal or skip a class for work.
With funding from AUTSA the idea came to create an open pantry that students can access with no strings attached. “Foodie Godmother is a project based on trust. We know that if you’re coming here, it’s because you need it. We are supporting students without judgement," says Mauricio Lozano, AUTSA Student Engagement Coordinator.
With help from across the university in the form of a working group of AUT staff members including Jo-Anne Lewis, Megan Skinner and Rachel Cleary to propel the project forward and the North Campus Estates team establishing their campus garden through a working bee, Foodie Godmother has been well used every day since it opened in April.
All the team ask for is a student ID and then they help them get what they need from the pantry. If a student comes in a number of times, the team will dig a bit deeper to make sure there isn’t a bigger problem or more they can do to help. They can put them in touch with the Student Hub for financial assistance or put them in touch with the advocacy team. Sometimes it’s as simple as helping them with a weekly budget for shopping.
As well as the Foodie Godmother pantry, AUTSA also has edible gardens on each campus ensuring an ongoing supply of delicious produce that can be taken, and requires a fair amount of maintenance for its upkeep. Some students are volunteering their time at the moment, but if there are any green-thumbs out there, AUTSA would love some help to keep the gardens in good shape.
If you’re considering donating, Lozano finds that the most popular items at the North and South campuses are things that can be eaten on campus for lunch whereas in the city campus, students tend to take things that can be taken home for dinner, canned goods, rice, pasta for example. They always run out of hygiene products like soap, laundry powder and tampons. Menstrual cups are also on offer and prove really popular with students. They cost upwards of $30 so are an expensive item for students to buy. “We had one student come in and ask for one, but she kept saying that she wasn’t struggling like some other students, once I assured her it was fine to take one, that they were for all students, she felt better and actually came back a few days later with some food items she could spare for the pantry.”
The supply of the menstrual cups comes from a partnership with My Cup, which donates 50 per cent of any order AUT makes. Partnerships like these are really important to be able to help more students, so Mauricio has been focusing on reaching out to businesses and organisations. Countdown has recently donated $1,000 which has been an immense help to re-stock the staples that are most used.
“$1000 has gone a long way. The connection with Countdown came through a student who has used the pantry. They weren’t able to donate themselves but wanted to do something to give back, so were able to put me in touch with Countdown.”
Turners and Growers (T&G) have started providing fresh fruit to the pantry, which is greatly appreciated by students and Foodbank New Zealand have been donating canned goods.
Lozano says that for the Foodie Godmother community to grow, it’s important that AUT staff know about it and donate if they can. “$5 added to your shopping budget won’t be much for you, but it will really make a difference to our students.”
He’s also counting on the fact that as students graduate from AUT, they will remember that the university helped them: "When they’re in a position to give, I’m sure they will because they were helped when they needed it."
No gift to AUT is too small. You can make a donation online now, or find out about other ways to make a gift and make a difference to the lives of our students.
To donate goods to Foodie Godmother, drop them in to the AUTSA Office at one of the following campus pantries:
WC Bldg, Level 2
AS Bldg, Room 133
To help out in one of the gardens, email firstname.lastname@example.org