A Plymouth College of Art graduate who ran a foodbank from home during lockdown in January has been nominated for a National Societies & Volunteering Award.
Harriet Moore, who is the university’s Student Union (SU) President, ran the foodbank from her flat as she did not want students to miss out on such an “essential area of support”.
With the announcement in January of a third national lockdown, the stay-at-home order meant the closure of shops, pubs and businesses.
This included every university campus and the facilities they offered to support students.
The closure of Plymouth College of Art’s campus also meant that the student foodbank, which provides vital assistance to students who may be experiencing financial hardship, was unavailable to those who used its services.
That’s when SU President Harriet, took the responsibility of ensuring no student would go without.
After getting permission from the local police, the Photography graduate took everything back to her flat and assured students that if they needed any support to go to her.
“Some of the students have jobs and care responsibilities on top of their studies and I didn’t want them to miss out.
“Giving them [items such as] food, toiletries and period products meant that they could focus on their studies without having to worry about how they were going to afford what they needed,” she told Oh My Goodness.
The foodbank, which is backed by donations from other students, staff and some of the companies the university works with, made itself available to those in desperate need as well as those who are vulnerable or who may be self-isolating.
To make the whole experience more “comfortable and safe” for those who required essentials, the 22-year-old arranged socially-distanced collections and non-contact deliveries.
Harriet would schedule the deliveries and collections between work and meetings to guarantee that “as many students were supported as possible”.
“The students I gave food parcels to couldn’t afford the essentials that they needed as they were waiting for their paychecks or other financial support,” she said.
Despite the added responsibility, Harriet said running the foodbank from home was merely an “extension” of her job.
When she found out that she was nominated for the National Societies and Volunteering’s ‘Extra Mile’ Award, she was “surprised” and “really thankful” that someone thought she was deserving of such an award.
“All of the students were grateful for the support, even if they themselves didn’t need to access it, and many sent messages of thanks for everything I was doing.
“My whole goal is to create positive change, so being nominated for this award just makes me feel that someone within the Plymouth College of Art community thinks I’m doing just that,” she added.
Stuart Witton, General Manager of Host Students Plymouth, described Harriet’s nomination as “well deserved” and said she had gone “above and beyond” for students during the pandemic.
One student who wished to remain anonymous said: “I honestly can’t thank you enough for the food parcel. Your generosity is overwhelming, and I’m so very thankful to Harriet for sorting me out a safe collection during the lockdown.”
Harriet has also done her best to make sure students benefit in other ways.
The SU President successfully secured an extension on deadlines to ensure students’ mental health was not impacted and made sure that period products were available in toilets across the campus.
“Period poverty can have a huge effect on education, and I really don’t want any of our students to miss out on lectures because they can’t afford the products they need or are too busy worrying about purchasing products,” she said.
Preparing for her second term as SU President, Harriet launched a Bursary which dedicates £1,000 of the Student Union’s annual budget towards buying students products that will help to fund their studies and set up an online community for parents who were balancing studying with homeschooling their children during lockdown.
As coronavirus restrictions have eased, it has permitted the reopening of the foodbank on campus, which Harriet describes as “great” as it has also invited more donations.
Despite this, Harriet has worked to make sure that foodbank parcel deliveries are still available to “any student” who has to self-isolate or is not back on campus yet because they are vulnerable.
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