Clubs on campus: Queen's Soul Food

On a typical night, it takes less than 30 minutes – sometimes 15 minutes – for shelters around Kingston to have trays of unconsumed food delivered from Queen’s cafeterias.

Soul Food, comprised of an 11-member executive team, organizes the delivery logistics and picks up leftover food from all three campus dining halls, located at Jean Royce Hall, Leonard Hall and Ban Righ Hall. They supply shelters such as Dawn House Women’s Shelter, In From the Cold Emergency Shelter, Ryandale Shelter for the Homeless or the Kingston Youth Shelter.

I sat down with this year’s co-chairs, Roya DelSol, ArtSci ’14, and Sarah Hobbs, ArtSci ’14, to discuss ways in which Soul Food, now in its fifth year, has grown in prominence:

Q: How long have you been with Soul Food?
DelSol: I’ve been involved with Soul Food for more than four years now … At first I was just a volunteer doing runs and then I joined as the recruitment/marketing officer.

Hobbs: I started volunteering in my second year just on a regular shift for one of the cafeterias, picking the food up and bringing it to the shelters and then I was hired as the logistics officer last year.

Q: On a typical night, how does the delivery procedure work?
Hobbs: The logistics coordinators are each responsible for one cafeteria and then there are volunteer drivers who are absolutely fantastic in that they donate their wheels, gas and time, and they’re usually paired with two other volunteers who don’t have wheels, but are willing to help out with the shift.

So they go and pickup the food from the cafeteria and the Sodexo staff are fantastic; they always have [the food] prepped and ready for you. [The volunteers] then load [the food] in the cars and drive it to the shelters, where they drop it off.

Q: Who started Soul Food? And when?
DelSol: [Soul Food] was started by [former students] Sherri Krell [and Tyler Peikes] in 2007.

Hobbs: [Krell and Peikes] had attended a seminar in Toronto listening to someone talk about how they were serving the Toronto homeless population and so they wanted to bring some of those ideas back and find a way to bring the university and town closer together and also serve the Kingston population.

Q: What’s one challenge you’ve encountered this year?
DelSol: [I]f we don’t have a driver for a night or a driver bails on us then we have to use a taxi. We do have an agreement with Amey’s, but [the taxi fare] does cost money and our budget is not that big so every driver that we have helps.

Hobbs: Another challenge would be expanding the club generally because last year we transferred into a not-for-profit … [We’re also] trying to look for new projects and expand, but also make sure that we continue to carry out our basic task mission.

Q: Why did you join Soul Food?
DelSol: I just started as a volunteer doing runs, and I think that’s how [Soul Food] brings in a lot of … first and second years. Soul Food is something that really helps the community and it’s still based on campus and it doesn’t take a long time. You can [volunteer] once a week and still feel like you’re making a difference.

Hobbs: You start off as a regular volunteer … and then somewhere along the line you get educated and then you’re like “this is a huge issue”. I think there’s something like 18,000 Kingston [residents] living in poverty. There’s such systemic poverty in the north end of Kingston and just once you become so aware of that unequal distribution of wealth – that’s really what keeps me going.

Q: What has the response been like for the education forums?
DelSol: We’ve kind of expanded into awareness, where we’re also talking about issues of systemic poverty and food insecurity in Kingston … you just become passionate and want to do more work.

Hobbs: What we’re trying to do with [our] awareness forums is to educate, so hopefully that leads to some of those bigger changes down the line that can really address the root of the problem, rather than just the symptoms.

This interview has been edited from length and clarity.

Soul Food will host their 4th awareness forum with MP Ted Hsu on Wednesday, March 19 in The Red Room, Kingston Hall at 5:30 p.m.

For more information on Soul Food, check out their website: http://soulfoodatqueens.com

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