On 25 November, student-led non-profit St Can-drews launched its “Can-drews at Christmas” initiative, collecting non-perishable goods as well as partnering with Kingdom FM to collect gifts for those in need.
The Saint sat down with Emma MacAndrews, vice-president of Can-drews, to discuss Can-drews at Christmas and the importance of giving this holiday season.
“As students we don’t always feel that we are in a financial situation where we can help tackle things like food poverty. Especially somewhere like Fife that has quite a high rate of food poverty. There’s about 45,000 people in Fife that are income-deprived. So obviously as students we don’t always have a lot of time. We don’t always have a lot of money. So it was trying to find a way for us to be able to contribute to something that’s really important,” MacAndrews said.
Started in 2018, Can-drews is a food collection service run entirely by St Andrews students. Students can drop off non-perishable food items at one of six halls: Agnes Blackadder, Andrew Melville, David Russell Apartments, University Hall, and St Salvator’s. Additionally, for students living in private accommodation, St Can-drews arranges free private collections.
Donations must be non-perishable, unopened, and cannot be out of date.
This year, Can-drews is collecting not just food, but also gifts for children and teenagers living in low-income households. Gifts must be unopened and like-new to be accepted.
On the importance of giving, specifically at Christmastime, MacAndrews said, “Christmas is definitely one of the more difficult times.
“We don’t always think about people who are the closest to us. And I think that’s what I’ve always really liked about Can-drews is we don’t have this crazy goal of trying to transform the Scottish or the UK poverty scene. We know that as students that’s not necessarily a realistic goal. But what is realistic is for our community, for them to be able to not have that panic and fear about how they’re going to provide presents or food, or all the things most of us take for granted at Christmastime. That can be a massive stress.
“So I think the goal really was to kind of bridge that gap, and so that even if you are living in an income-deprived situation, or if you do experience food poverty, that Christmas can still be joyous and can still bring some kind of good to you, no matter what your situation is. No one wants to have to spend any time of year, especially not Christmas, worried about things like food, worried about things like presents.”
She continued, “For a lot of people, their fear comes from other things. Their fear comes from, ‘I can’t give my children or my partner Christmas dinner. I can’t give them presents. We don’t have a Christmas tree. I have to be worried about things like hygiene poverty as well’. And I think in the true spirit of Christmas, to relieve that burden of people, even if it’s for a short time, it’s always better than doing nothing at all so that as many people as possible get to enjoy Christmas the way that the holiday season should be celebrated.”
Some goods are in more demand than others.
MacAndrews said, “Obviously we’ll accept all donations, but things that are maybe more festive appropriate.”
She continued, “Hygiene poverty is a really big thing, so toothpaste, shaving gel, body washes, things like that really, really help. And in terms of the gifts, obviously we’ll acpet everything but please, please don’t forget teenagers. People under the age of 18 live in poverty themselves. It’s not just, you know, toddlers or primary school age children. It does affect teenagers who could think about coming to university just like us. So please don’t forget anyone who tends to be left out.”
And donations are not the only way to get involved in Can-drews.
“We’re always looking for volunteers, especially at this time of year,” MacAndrews said.
She added, “If you ever want to volunteer, if you want to help us lift things, if you want to help us fundraise at our bake sales or anything like that we’re always open to volunteers. We’re still looking for a few hall representatives, so if you live in any halls and you want to be responsible for the donations that come through Sallie’s or Andrew Melville or anything like that, or if you want to see a donation point in your hall that doesn’t already have one, shoot us a message. Again, we’re more than happy to have extra people come on board and help us out with things like that.”
Fundraising is also a big point of need for Can-drews.
Speaking on who should get involved with fundraising, MacAndrews said, “Anyone who wants to help contribute with fundraising, anyone who has big, wonderful ideas for anything we can do, anyone who has spare change.”
“There’s no amount that is too small, there’s not an amount that is insignificant at all. Literally every single penny counts to these families, and so every single penny counts to us,” she added.
Can-drews at Christmas is running through 17 December, with plenty of opportunities to get involved. This Friday 5 December, Can-drews will be outside of the Student Union holding a food and toy drive whilst raffling off a £15 Greggs gift voucher. Entries are £1 each, and the stall will be open from 11am to 2pm.