When University of Guelph students don Halloween costumes and visit city neighbourhoods this week to collect food for the Guelph Food Bank – a longtime tradition — they will take along some younger assistants for the first time.

The U of G students will take part in the annual Trick or Eat campaign run by the Central Student Association and Meal Exchange, a national student-run organization engaging students from some 30 Canadian campuses in alleviating hunger.

The students aim to collect non-perishable food items from homes to be donated to the Guelph Food Bank. This year they will be joined by local high school students. In addition, online donations can be made.

With more people participating and with Halloween falling on a Saturday, organizers hope to set a record for food collection, said Genna Patterson, central co-ordinator at the Guelph Meal Exchange.

Guelph already holds the Canadian record for the most food collected in one evening — 49,105 pounds on Halloween 2013.

“This year, our goal is to at least match that number or perhaps surpass it,” said Patterson.

“This is a U of G initiative based on the national campaign, but we know food insecurity in Guelph affects all of its residents. We want to be able to encourage as many Guelph citizens to participate in this event as possible.”

The event will begin on campus with a costume contest. Buses will leave campus at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., and return two hours later. Organizers have also planned routes for students driving cars and those with accessibility issues.

“We’ve been working with many community partners to advertise the event, and we have approximately 2,000 routes within the city that students will use to collect the donations,” said Patterson.

U of G has had the highest Trick or Eat participation among Canadian universities since the annual campaign began in 2001. Organizers hope more than 1,000 Guelph students will take part this year.

The Guelph Food Bank receives its largest single food donation on Halloween thanks to U of G students.

“The Food Bank helps and works in co-operation with 19 local agencies, and they are dependent on these food donations,” said Patterson.

“Hunger does not discriminate based on gender, race, sexuality or ethnicity. It can be very difficult to know if someone is experiencing food insecurity and there still exists a degree of stigma associated with asking for help or using social services such as food banks. This event helps bring awareness about hunger issues in Guelph.”

Students may register online as teams or individuals through Friday. Students have also created a Facebook page to promote the event. Trick or Eat will begin in the University Centre at 4 p.m.