Julia McCann, the program coordinator for the Food Cupboard, is helping to keep students warm this winter. Photo credit: Nathan Drescher

Cold students in need can get a winter coat thanks to the Food Cupboard. The Warm Up for Winter coat drive kicked off in early November and coats are available right now.

“This is the first time we’ve had a coat drive,” said Julia McCann, the program coordinator for the Food Cupboard. “We’ve given away 14 or 15 jackets so far, and many hats and mitts as well.”

Ottawa winters can be wildly unpredictable, with some days reaching minus 20 C degrees or lower. Students are facing increasing financial pressure this year with the cost of living and basic foodstuffs at their highest levels in 40 years.

McCann hopes to help.

It was McCann and her managers at the the Students’ Association who first came up with the idea of putting together a winter coat drive. The Food Cupboard is operated by the Students’ Association, and while McCann is new to the role at the college, she has a lot of experience.

“I really loved the food cupboard program,” she said. “My background is in food security and food insecurity, and I’ve worked in several community programs, so I was excited to come here.”

There are winter coats, hats, mitts and boots for all ages and sizes at the Food Cupboard, located in room B102.
There are winter coats, hats, mitts and boots for all ages and sizes at the Food Cupboard, located in room B102. Photo credit: Nathan Drescher

A rack of winter coats and some shelves stuffed with coats and snow pants of all colours take up one side of the room. There are winter boots lined up along the floor, ready for a new owner who would otherwise have frozen feet.

“Students have been really grateful that we’re doing this,” McCann said. “A lot of international students, I don’t think, expect that the Canadian winter is going to be this harsh. So we’re getting a lot of good feedback about this.”

The Food Cupboard coat drive includes winter gear for children. There are hats and mittens and little winter coats for Algonquin College students who are also parents.

Students can book an appointment to receive winter clothing or food via the Students’ Association website. McCann said while the Food Cupboard operates on a trust system, students still need to register with the program.

Dec. 8 was the original end date of the winter coat drive, but now it is up in the air.

“We’re still deciding if this is the last day of the coat drive,” McCann said. “We have a lot of jackets remaining, so we might make this a permanent winter-long thing.”

While the collection for the jackets is over, people can make much needed food donations at one of several collection bins around campus, or by visiting the Food Cupboard in B building, Room B102.