It all started last fall. John Fister, a law teacher at David Thompson and a small group of his students decided to practice what they preached when it came to social justice and the value of community engagement.
In early December, after raising hundreds of dollars, purchasing and preparing food, the students headed down to the DTES on their weekend. During their first visit, they were astounded by how friendly and welcoming everyone at the shelter was.
That weekend, the students fed over 250 people.
Fister says the tricky logistics required to feed that number of people depend on the impressive organizational talents of his students.
"I can't say enough about the students. They are absolute master administrators," he says.
The feeling you get after feeding the hungry is one of Samantha Truong's favorite parts of the Hunger Bites program. She got involved with the project because she says she felt frustrated by the homeless rates in the DTES and was inspired to do something about it by her older sister who's a social worker in the troubled neighbourhood.
"We slave over five hours in the kitchen, but it all pays off when the rush of people come lining up for the food we have prepared," says Truong. "After we distribute the food, all the students are able to sit down with them and converse while enjoying a healthy, delicious meal."
Over the past four months, the program has grown to include over 30 staff and students.
"It has grown into this beautiful monster," Fister says. "And it's all volunteer-based."
While the cooking and food distribution is rewarding, Fister and Truong both say raising enough money is a significant challenge for their program.
"Funding definitely is the most challenging obstacle. For our first two feeds, our sponsor Mr. Fister actually donated nearly $200 to cover half the cost. The other half came from our 2nd co-founder," says Truong. "Now the club is holding multiple fundraisers throughout the weeks at David Thompson Secondary."
To meet the ever present demand, Hunger Bites has gotten creative with their fundraising. They've held carwashes, sold muffins and hot chocolate and recently held a loonie drive which raised $950 for food purchases. The Hunger Bites club plans to also invite a hairstylist to David Thompson to give students haircuts. Half the money raised will go to Hunger Bites.
Despite the challenges involved in finding the money, Truong says it's perfectly clear how important the club is to the community.
"The Hunger Bites club is doing this because it is necessary," she says. "It is crucial for youth to become aware of the homeless rates in Downtown Eastside. Instead of shunning, instead of ignoring, we want to be loud and we want to create change."
To learn more about the club or to get involved, click here.