How the Dal community and other Nova Scotia universities raised $165,000 to boost student food security

- December 9, 2020

Dal alumna Lisa Murphy (on the right) and her sister, Karen Spaulding, at the opening of the Dr. William Murphy Dental Clinic at Dalhousie in this 2018 file photo. (Nick Pearce photo)
Dal alumna Lisa Murphy (on the right) and her sister, Karen Spaulding, at the opening of the Dr. William Murphy Dental Clinic at Dalhousie in this 2018 file photo. (Nick Pearce photo)

When Dalhousie approached Lisa Murphy (BA’88, LLB’92) with an invitation to partner in The Food Security Project, not only did she say ‘Yes,’ she said ‘I’ll raise you one,’ challenging Dal to take the campaign to other Nova Scotia universities.

"As COVID-19 shut down our schools and universities, libraries and restaurants, drop-in centres and meal support services, we knew we had to step up to help vulnerable Nova Scotians,” says Murphy, on behalf of the J & W Murphy Foundation, which she co-directs with her sister, Karen Spaulding. “That includes students, many of whom have lost jobs and access to on-campus food services.”

Dal launched The Food Security Project for Giving Tuesday (Dec. 1), a day that encourages and amplifies small acts of kindness and giving. Dal’s campaign raised money for a network of student-led programs including the DSU Food Bank, Loaded Ladle, DSU Farmers’ Market and DSU Sustainability Office. Together, they make free food and meals available, subsidize the cost of locally grown produce, and teach students how to budget for, purchase, prepare and store nutritious food. Funds were also raised for Dal’s Agricultural Campus, which has a staff-run Food Pantry for students.

The spirit of giving

The goal at Dal was to raise $40,000, with the Murphys matching dollar-for-dollar the first $20,000 of gifts from individuals. Thanks to the generosity of alumni, local businesses, corporations, faculty, staff, Dalhousie’s President’s Office and the broader Dal community, Dal raised more than $67,000. This will allow the Dalhousie Student Union to help hundreds more students each month to eat well.

Saint Mary’s University, Mount Saint Vincent University, St. Francis Xavier University, Acadia University, Cape Breton University, Atlantic School of Theology, NSCAD University and the University of King’s College joined Dalhousie in raising funds to improve food security for their students at Murphy’s suggestion. Each university received a $3,500 minimum from the J & W Murphy Foundation.

Collectively, the N.S. universities raised $165,000 on Giving Tuesday. (The Project Dal page remains open for anyone still wishing to donate; more funds raised means more students supported.)

“The response to this province-wide food security initiative shows the true spirit of Nova Scotia,” says Deep Saini, president and vice-chancellor at Dalhousie. “The deep-rooted commitment to supporting one another is one of the things that makes this province so special.

"I want to thank the J & W Murphy Foundation for their generosity, vision and leadership, and everyone who has lent their support to this project. I am so proud of the way Nova Scotia’s universities worked together to provide assistance to students during this challenging time."

Read more: Dal’s student‑led food security programs get boost from community

Students and alumni come together to advance food security

Removing the stigma around food insecurity

Alumni left notes of encouragement for today’s students on the project website. Dr. Anthony Lyons (MD’95) wrote, “I sadly remember one year that I dropped over 15 lbs. I could only afford one meal per day. My mother cried when she saw me at Christmas. Too proud to ask for help, I guess. Thank you for doing this for the students and removing the stigma.”  

“Karen and I are so proud of the Dalhousie community today for stepping up and supporting students who need a little help right now. The success of this campaign speaks to the incredible outpouring of support and makes me proud to be an alumna,” says Murphy.

Karen and Lisa’s father, William Murphy (BSC’52, DDS’56, LLD’07), was also an alumnus. He practiced as a dentist, giving up his practice in 1979 to devote himself full time to Mersey Seafoods Ltd. in Liverpool, N.S., a company he co-founded in 1964. He and their mother, Janet (Roper) Murphy (BA’55, BEd’56) instilled in their daughters a strong sense of empathy and social responsibility, says Murphy.

The Foundation has a long history supporting lifelong learners, including students at Dalhousie. In 2010, the first Murphy scholarships were awarded to freshmen Dal students who were the first in their families to pursue post-secondary education. A student residence bursary was endowed in 2018, the same year the Dr. William Murphy Dental Clinic opened in Dalhousie’s Faculty of Dentistry.


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