Meet Amber Solomon: Mount Allison Student Food Bank Coordinator
The Mount Allison Student Food Bank started small in 2018 and has grown in both size and programming. This summer Amber Solomon, a fourth-year sociology, Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies student, took on the role as the Food Bank Coordinator.
“Food security is a growing issue in our society, including for students. Having this resource on campus has been an important addition,” says Solomon. “I’m excited to continue work on the project.”
Solomon, who is from Kingsclear First Nation, NB, has spent her summer taking inventory of existing resources and tracking what students need and what is being donated, with a goal to better align these. She will be working in this role over the academic year to coordinate donations and ensure students using the food bank needs are met.
“I volunteered at a food bank previously in my home community and worked with child and family services. I would like to work in either education or social work someday,” says Solomon.
In addition to her work in the Food Bank, Solomon is completing research this summer, looking at data around retention rates of Indigenous students at Mount Allison from the 1990s to present. This insight will help determine what areas are problematic and help the University focus on ways to better support this cohort.
A member of the Indigenous Student Support Group, Solomon is also a practicing artist. Her work Astuwicuwon is installed in the Owens Art Gallery’s entrance window. She also creates traditional beadwork and ribbon skirts.
The Student Food Bank purchased a freezer this summer with support from a #RisingYouth Grant, enabling frozen food donations and the ability to receive donations of traditional food from local First Nation Communities. The opportunity to provide moose meat or fish to students can often make them feel more ‘at home’.
Patty Musgrave-Quinn, Mount Allison’s Indigenous Affairs Coordinator, is overseeing the facility with Solomon. She says having this resource on campus for students prevents the need to miss class or withdraw due to financial or other reasons related to food insecurity.
The Food Bank is located in the Mawita’mkw Indigenous Gathering space on the first floor of the Wallace McCain Student Centre. Musgrave-Quinn indicates that while it is a temporary fix, especially those waiting for student loans or waiting on other funds, it can be the difference between going hungry and withdrawing to having food in bellies and remaining in school. It is accessible to students to pick up something to take home between 3pm and 6pm Monday to Friday. For those that are experiencing long-term issues with food insecurity, pop by to speak to Patty or Amber and they will try to find a way to assist you in the long term — firstname.lastname@example.org.
Musgrave-Quinn says the resource is intended for all Mount Allison students and those needing assistance can reach out to her directly — email@example.com
“The Food Bank at Mount Allison is for all students, not only Indigenous students. I encourage any students or staff members who may know of a student in need to contact me,” says Musgrave-Quinn. “We have all experienced times of financial insecurity, and you can come in here to grab something without shame or fear of judgement. We will assist in a discrete way.”
Musgrave and Solomon are also asking individuals who wish to donate to get in touch with them before dropping items off.
“To avoid waste, we ask that individuals ensure non-perishable items are not expired as they will need to be discarded. As well, you can certainly drop off gift cards to the Independent or Foodland in $25 denominations to be handed out to students in need; if you wish to donate cash or a larger gift card, you may do so and Amber will do the shopping based on what we need,” says Musgrave. “Produce can be brought in also for students to take home; fruit is especially welcome! Things like pasta, individual microwavable rice packages, coffee creamers, bagels, bread, canned soup, canned fruit and vegetables, ketchup, mustard, mayo, hot dogs, hamburger patties, buns, nachos, salsa, cheese slices, are all good choices. Snack items for all students who come into the centre during the evenings and during weekends to experience a safe, sober space are also welcome! Granola Bars, chips, chocolate, veggie chips, Bar Paws, items are all items that we’ve found are appealing to students. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.”