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‘Love Western’ Feeds Students

March 15, 2023
Photo: Western Campus Ministry

Western Campus Ministry, a Resonate Global Mission partner at Western University in London, Ont., is meeting a huge need on campus—providing food for hungry students through a food pantry.

“We heard rumblings of students who were not able to afford both their education and their living expenses,” said Michael Wagenman, campus minister at Western University. “We estimated from a study conducted by the university that there could be up to 6,000 students who were struggling to afford either enough food or the quality food that a human being needs.”

The project, called “Love Western,” started during the 2021-22 academic year in the midst of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

“So much of Jesus’ ministry took place in the context of eating,” Wagenman noted. And that example inspired Western Campus Ministry to work with the university and local churches to start a satellite food pantry on campus. Other ministries on campus have also gotten involved.

“I communicated this idea to our supporting churches, both within classis and locally near campus, and the financial support that we’ve received has been a wonderful surprise that the students are so grateful for. There was just something about this idea of supporting hungry students that resonated with people,” said Wagenman.

The food pantry is making a big difference in the lives of the 50-75 students who access it each week.

One student had moved to Canada to study at Western University. She lives with her mother, who cannot legally work, so the student is studying while trying to support herself and her mother. “The gratitude she expresses because she’s able to take one more worry off her list . . .  that’s big,” said Wagenman.

When students on campus heard about the food pantry, they wanted to help. Students were crucial in getting Love Western up and running, and many students continue to volunteer each week.

“The students have really owned it,” said Wagenman. “We wanted it to involve students supporting fellow students. We wanted students to have these volunteer opportunities so that they could learn about themselves, learn some leadership skills, and have these experiences that will help them in their education and their career.”

At first, most of the students helping were part of Western Campus Ministry or Christian clubs. But as word got out, students from all over campus have wanted to get involved—and it has sparked a lot of conversations about how faith can make a positive difference in people’s lives.

“Many students, student leaders, and administrative staff have been shocked to learn that Love Western is actually a group of churches who just want to help, be a part of solving a problem, and are willing to put the time, effort, and money into a good cause,” said Wagenman. “It has opened up so many missional conversations that our ministry has many more seeking, searching, and curious students than before.”

Love Western is just one way in which Western Campus Ministry seeks to “embody the love of Jesus” on campus, said Wagenman. The campus ministry will continue supporting students through the food pantry and continue to be attentive to ways in which God might be asking them to step in and serve the campus.