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Paper Bag Crew aims to fight food insecurity

When the Paper Bag Crew passes out bags filled with food to those facing food insecurity, each comes with a hand-written message such as, “Please remember that you are important, valued and loved.”

The Paper Bag Crew, formed by Colorado State University students, are finding a way to put extra meal swipes to good use. The organization was created in November 2016 by two freshman students: international studies major Hannah Cowie and wildlife conservation major Katie Gray.

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Hannah Cowie, chair of development, said she wants to help educate students that food insecurity is still prevalent in the Fort Collins area despite it being a predominantly middle to upper-economic class city.

“It’s a lot more severe than people realize, but there are a lot more things we can do that people are not aware of,” Cowie said.

The majority of donations received came from students who use meal swipes to purchase food at express stations on campus. A survey done by the Paper Bag Crew found that about a quarter of students have two to four meal swipes left over by the end of the week that go unused.

The group collects about 50 meals in paper bags, then heads to northern Old Town near the Fort Collins Rescue Mission to distribute the meals. The food is targeted toward homeless and transient individuals and works to supplement the care they get at the mission.

Gray, the chair of management, said her favorite part are the interactions with the people. The first time Gray donated her extra meals, she thought it would be a one-time thing. Then she got hooked.

“While we were there I gave a bag to this man who tried to give me his last dollar,” Gray said.

While she politely declined, Gray said she found a way to be of service to others, something that is very important to her.

The Paper Bag Crew is now made of about 20 members and continues to expand their reach. Cowie said they are starting to implement the distribution of feminine products, items that are often overlooked.

Safety while distributing the meals has also been a top priority for the organization. John Gregory, the volunteer coordinator, helps to keep things running smoothly. He said it helps to have a male presence while handing out the meals considering most of the members are female.

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Gregory said that through the Paper Bag Club he has been able to explore the world of homelessness through more than just statistics. He believes college is a time when students can learn a little bit of humility.

“I believe that our goal in college is not as important for our career but for the word as a whole. And I think it’s little things like this that do that,” Gregory said.

For more information on how to be a part of the Paper Bag Club students can email paperbagcrewfc@gmail.com.

Collegian reporter Ty Betts can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @TyBetts9.

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