They may be older than your typical trick-or-treater, but that won’t stop hundreds of university students from donning costumes and showing up on your doorstep this Saturday.

Students from the University of Ottawa and Carleton University will be going door-to-door for a good cause this Halloween.

But they’re not asking for candy. They’re looking for donations of non-perishable food to help Canadian families who struggle to put food on the table.


Canada’s largest youth food drive, Trick-or-Eat, will see over 6,000 students across the country collecting food for Meal Exchange, a national student-led charity that works to raise awareness of local hunger, said Allison Smith, the Meal Exchange co-coordinator at Carleton.

“A lot of people would be surprised that hunger is a problem in Ottawa,” said Smith. “Ottawa is considered recession proof, but when you look at the numbers, it’s just not true. There are people who are hungry and people who don’t know where their next meals are coming from.”

Here in the capital, about 40,000 people need some sort of food assistance each month, Smith said.

“And even more startling is about a third of food aid recipients are children.”

In 2008, students from both universities collected about 8,000 pounds of food, which went to the Ottawa Food Bank and food banks on each university’s campus.

That a university would require a food bank might surprise some people, “but people come in all the time,” said Smith.

“There are people who attend Carleton and the University of Ottawa who use a food bank,” she said. “People come towards the end of the semester when they’re running low on money.”

Aside from knowing that they’ve made a difference, students really enjoy the project, Smith added. “People enjoy dressing up for Halloween and reliving their childhood, going from house to house.”

Nationwide, this year’s goal is to collect 140,000 meals, and an additional $30,000 in online donations.

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