Because of COVID-19, food insecurity has become a challenge for many students. That’s why the Distro – a weekly food pantry at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont. – has become an important aspect of ministry for Brian Bork, who is a campus minister partnering with Resonate Global Mission and also happens to be Christian Courier’s Reviews Editor.
“[Food insecurity] is a multifaceted thing,” says Bork. “We think maybe that food insecurity is starvation or hunger, but it’s a broader concept than that. . . I’ve known students who don’t have a lot of money and therefore don’t have a healthy diet.”
COVID-19 has made affording food, budgeting, and many other aspects of studying at university unpredictable and difficult. Laurier had a food bank on campus, but it shut down at the beginning of the pandemic with the rest of campus activity. Some students have not been able to work, either because they lost their jobs or could not work because of restrictions.
That’s why one of Bork’s colleagues in campus ministry worked alongside Laurier Students’ Public Interest Research Group to start the Distro. It started with some non-perishable food items on a table; now it’s a mini supermarket in a classroom with fresh produce, toiletries, cleaning products, pet food and more. Students can even get a warm meal to bring home.
“God calls us to be on mission,” says Bork. “I think we often don’t think that places of seeming wealth, like a university campus, are places where we can do this kind of missional work . . . there are big, powerful, wealthy institutions in town who have these challenges.”
Bork has been working with the Distro since April 2021. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, Resonate partner campus ministers had to creatively adapt and find new ways to connect with students. The Distro has been one of the few ways Bork can be present on campus to make new connections. Every week, he volunteers his time – assisting with set-up, buying fresh produce, unloading deliveries, talking with students and offering whatever help is needed.
“So much of what I’ve done over the years has been food-related: dinner fellowships, breakfast groups, I’ve bought lunches and coffees for dozens and dozens and dozens of students,” Bork said. “This is a way of using food to bless the campus more broadly.”
The Distro is largely supported through local partnerships, many of which are churches in the area. Christian Reformed churches can get involved in a variety of ways, including bringing food and volunteering time.
About 120 students use the Distro each week and Bork expects this number to grow when campuses begin to reopen in-person activities and learning. Since the food pantry fits into Resonate partner campus ministers’ mission to support and care for students, it will continue to be an important part of Bork’s ministry.
Many students who use the Distro also volunteer their time and a couple students from the campus ministry Bork leads are starting to get involved too.
“I feel like [this ministry] is just beginning,” said Bork. “It’s a tangible way that Christians are making a difference on campus.”
This article is made possible through a partnership with CRC Ministries within Canada.