Food drive aims to curb student hunger over the holidays

New report finds 39 per cent of students experienced food insecurity

Between Nov. 14 and Dec. 14, the Student Association (SA) is running a holiday food drive, with the goal of collecting 300 shopping bags full of non-perishable food items.

Campus food banks might be shutting down over the upcoming holidays, but that doesn’t mean that students using the service stop eating. The goal of the drive is to make sure that students can remain stocked up while the food banks are closed.

“We want to help students have a worry free and happy holiday season,” said Ronnie Cruz, community services co-ordinator with the SA, which funds The Dialog.

Taranpreet Singh, support staff at the SA food bank drops off some non-perishables in the food drive box Casa Loma. Steve Cornwell / The Dialog

Taranpreet Singh, support staff at the SA food bank drops off some non-perishables in the food drive box Casa Loma. Steve Cornwell / The Dialog

The rise of food banks on campuses in the last 15 years is indicative of a problem with access to food, according to Merryn Maynard, program co-ordinator with Meal Exchange, a national organization focused on food issues at post-secondary schools.

In their Hungry for Knowledge report that was published in October, Meal Exchange found 30.8 per cent of post-secondary students experienced moderate food insecurity, meaning that they reported compromising on the quality and quantity of food they eat weekly.

Additionally, more than eight per cent of the students surveyed reported instances of severe food insecurity, like not eating for an entire day, while also compromising on the quality and quantity of their food because they didn’t have enough money.

Maynard was not surprised by the high numbers of students experiencing food insecurity, but she said she was shocked by how frequently the lack of food was downplayed as a normal part of being a student, or a kind of right of passage to get a post-secondary education. Being a starving student might have been a running joke 20 years ago, but now it’s more serious.

“The situation has become far more severe for students now,” said Maynard. “The financial climate and the labour market is much different and this is no longer something, I think, that can be pushed aside.”

To help address the hunger that some students at George Brown College face, Cruz is encouraging faculty, staff and other students to donate non-perishable foods to the holiday food drive. Donation boxes can be found at SA offices, food bank locations, as well as welcome desks at all three main campuses.

With files from Indira Ordaz

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Food drive aims to curb student hunger over the holidays