Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and for those who are still looking for the perfect man, the U of T food and clothing bank offers a solution-Mr. Potato Head. Why is Mr. Potato Head the perfect man? He’s tan, he’s cute, and if he looks at another woman, you can rearrange his face.

All jokes aside, the U of T food bank is hosting its first Valentine Fundraiser today on Thursday February 12 at the International Student Centre located at 33 St. George Street. Doors will open at 5 pm and music will begin at 6 pm with performances by the band Call The Cops. There will be food, a cash bar and a 50/50 draw. Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for non-students. All proceeds go to support the U of T food and clothing bank here on campus.

But how many students have even heard of the U of T food and clothing bank? Maybe not enough. Out of 15 random people surveyed, only 2 knew of its existence and the rest re-buried their heads into their textbooks or hurried past to their next lectures.

In fact, the U of T food bank is anything but boring. The food bank has done some great events since it first established in early 1990s. The once small and rather isolated group has now slowly evolved into a solid organization with numerous partnerships.

Terri Nikolaevsky, Director of Student Services at the Students Administrative Council (SAC) explains, “We are trying to build even more partnerships around campus and to do some more outreach and [raise] awareness that the U of T food and clothing bank exists. So that’s our next plan…and we are trying to put partnerships in place that will continue on from year to year.”

One very successful partnership took place in December of last year with Alumnus Jason Murphy and his committee. The event was called “A Christmas Carol” and it was the second annual reading of Charles Dickens’ holiday classic. “A Christmas Carol” attracted more than 400 students, faculty and staff and raised more than $8,000 for the food bank.

As well, the food bank distributed 100 turkeys this past year. “We’ve done that annually for the past few years. With the money we raised, we were able to purchase turkeys and give them out. We were able to do that twice this year, once during Thanksgiving and also once during Christmas. It was very well received and we wouldn’t have been able to do that without our partnerships,” says Nikolaevsky.

The food bank has also been very innovative. Last January, it gave out 90 payless shoe vouchers valued at $25 each to its food bank users. And in preparation for spring, the food bank organized a Spring Cleaning Day in March.

“The Spring Cleaning Day was a specialty day where we switched it up and gave out household cleaning products that people wouldn’t normally see from the food bank,” adds Nikolaevsky.

Recently the U of T food bank held a cooking demonstration to teach students how to cook on a budget.

“We organized a cooking on a budget demonstration at the food bank in January and we had Nouman Ashraf, formerly from the Family Care Office and now Student Affairs, to come out and do the demonstration. It’s a hands-on demonstration to show students how to make things affordably at home instead of going out and buying your meals. They are simple recipes you can make at home, feeds four to five people and lasts in the fridge…and saves money in the process,” says Nikolaevsky.

A similar initiative, called Community Kitchens, is also available at Hart House every month. Students can learn to cook healthy and fulfilling meals with the help of a Hart House chef and even get to take home the leftovers from the cooking session.

The U of T food and clothing bank distributes food every Friday from noon to 3 pm and is located in New College in the basement of Wetmore Hall, room 50.

“The whole experience [working at food bank] is very gratifying…we are helping students, so it’s like students helping students and watching that dynamic happen is just great. When everything comes together and knowing that we’re helping students, it’s great,” concludes Nikolaevsky.