Maties want to end student hunger with ambitious collective initiative

Elana Meyer

R10 million in 100 days to create sustainable food banks on the Stellenbosch and Tygerberg campuses to ensure that, for the next three years, no Matie has to study on an empty stomach…

This is the ambitious aim of Stellenbosch University’s (SU) student-inspired #Move4Food drive, which will was launched on Monday August 20, and runs until Tuesday November 27, which is “Giving Tuesday” at SU.

Giving Tuesday has expanded from the United States in recent years to become a global day of giving.

Students, staff and alumni will engage in a wide range of peer to peer fundraising activities, like participating in the upcoming Sanlam Cape Town Marathon on September 23, to raise funds for the cause.

Olympic Games silver medallist and SU alumna Elana Meyer challenged Maties rector and vice-chancellor Professor Wim de Villiers to take part in the race, and he accepted.

Earlier this year, Professor De Villiers participated in the Cape Town Cycle Tour with alumni and friends of the university to raise money for student bursaries, and he is already practising hard for the marathon in September.

He has previously run the “Big 5” marathons – Boston, New York, London, Chicago and Berlin.

“One student that goes hungry on our campus is one too many,” says Professor De Villiers. “I am putting my time, energy and money into fighting student hunger – and I challenge staff, students, donors, alumni and friends of the university, as well as the general public, to do the same. Let’s team up to help our students finish their race.”

More than 60 runners have already signed up and 20 fundraising pages have been created. Among others, the SU Registrar, Dr Ronel Retief, has entered the 10km race.

Food insecurity prevalent

Food insecurity and the need for the most basic items are becoming more prevalent among students in South Africa. Despite perceptions that SU maintains a privileged position, at least six in every 100 newcomer students (first years and first year postgraduate students) at SU are at risk. This translates into 465 newcomers (out of a total of 7 744) – compounded by students in other years.

“No student should be without food or basic needs,” says Ben Moolman, Student Representative Council member for Strategic Initiatives and Leadership Development. “We want to create a sustainable solution for students. Although the need goes far beyond food, this is now the most urgent need.”

With the recent announcement of fee-free education, there is a perception that students from working class families receive financial support that covers all their university costs.

“Not so,” says Karen Bruns, senior director of Development and Alumni Relations. “There are caps on each expense component, like tuition, accommodation and food allowances. This results in shortfalls that the student is still liable for. The most pressing times for students are at the beginning of the year, when students are still waiting for funding to be approved and just before final exams, when the food allowances dry up,” she explains.

Those who want to support #Move4Food can sign up to run in the Cape Town marathon or make an online donation to the cause at www.givengain.com, or email ontwikkeling@sun.ac.za, or contact Cheryl Benadie at 083 272 1071 or email cbenadie@sun.ac.za