A year-end food drive started by a Western student who saw a kitchen cabinet full of unused food as an opportunity to help others ended this week with donations from across Canada to the London Food Bank.
Except it didn’t really end. In fact, Michael Boushy’s Cabinet Clean-Out campaign may be just the beginning of a strengthened relationship between Western students and the London community.
“After seeing what we collected in just a month, I think we could collect even more next year by getting the word out as much as we can,” Boushy said after a whirlwind week of wrapping up his school year, packing to move home to Oakville for the summer, and driving around London to collect donations.
“Every expectation has been exceeded,” said the second-year a management and organization studies student. student. “I didn’t expect this kind of volume coming in from people I’d never met. … It would be silly not to branch this out.”
Boushy, a member of the men’s Mustangs hockey team, said he felt compelled “to do something” in April when he saw the many boxes, bags and cans of pasta, rice and soup that he and his five roommates had left over as they prepared to move out of the home they’d shared on Hellmuth Avenue.
Suspecting other students were dealing with the same potential waste in neighbourhoods around Western and Fanshawe College, Boushy launched Cabinet Clean-Out on Instagram and LinkedIn.
Soon, people started dropping off non-perishables to the house while Boushy and his roommate, fellow Western student Wilson O’Neil, drove around in O’Neil’s truck collecting donations from those who didn’t have access to a vehicle.
The biggest surprise to Boushy came when students from other postsecondary schools across Canada started e-transferring him money. He used it to buy more non-perishables suggested by someone he spoke to at the food bank.
By May 1, O’Neil’s truck was full and the food drive had been featured by The London Free Press (covered by Western journalism graduate Calvi Leon) and CTV London. And Boushy’s inbox was filling up with donation offers from students across Canada and Londoners across the city.
“That’s when the [broader] London community got involved,” said Boushy, who rose to the challenge by changing his plan to head back home to Oakville on the weekend.
“There was no way I could go back on Sunday,” he said. “I was doing pickups all day.”
By Tuesday afternoon, donors had filled up the back of the Jeep he borrowed from his sister, bringing the campaign total to more than 335 kilograms (740 pounds) of donated food, he said.
The response has him already planning for next year with a goal to get Fanshawe College students involved as well, and to spark local campaigns in other cities.
“What those students did was a beautiful thing,” said Food Bank co-director Glen Pearson. “There was no press conference and they didn’t ask us for a truck, a box or bags or signs or to tell the media — they just decided to do something and they did it.”
Serving 3,500 families a month, the organization relies on the generosity of community members, and Pearson welcomed Boushy’s offer to turn the year-end drive into an annual campaign.
Boushy’s final pickup on May 4 took him to the home of April Girard-Brown, a language and liberal studies professor at Fanshawe College who was inspired to donate after seeing the campaign online.
“I think students do want to find ways to get involved in their communities, but it can be hard and the pandemic has been very limiting,” Girard-Brown said.
“When students can find creative ways to help out and get involved, it’s all the more meaningful.”