Food banks in increased demand: but are university students missing out?

According to a recent study, food insecurity is a serious problem for students across the country, and Carleton is no exception.

According to a Meal Exchange report called “Hungry for Knowledge”, which is the largest cross-campus study into food insecurity for post-secondary students, 39% of university or college attendees experience some level of food insecurity.

“…39% of university or college attendees experience some level of food insecurity.” – Hungry for Knowledge Report

To combat this problem, CUSA runs its own food centre, situated in room 302 of University Centre, a fact Liam Harrington, Food Centre volunteer, says many people are not aware of.

“People have trouble finding the food centre, even if they know it exists, which many people don’t,” said Harrington.

This creates the potential issue of people not getting access to the services they need, even though they exist.

The centre tries to makes itself as open as possible, by not requiring background checks on a person’s finances, only asking that a person has a student card, and fills in a basic background form.

Food is distributed through hampers, which contain subsidized food at a much lower cost, provided by the Ottawa Food Bank. These hampers are available for purchase at a price range of anywhere from $5-$20, and can only be purchased once every three weeks.

“Hampers are the only way we distribute food, as we need to keep track of how much food we give out,” said Harrington. “The food we receive comes from the Ottawa food bank, so it’s important to keep track of statistics in terms of food given out so the food bank knows, and the government who gives he food bank their funding knows where the food is going.”

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Along with the report into student food insecurity by Meal Exchange, there was a wider study by Food Banks Canada, which showed that food bank use increased across the country. Food bank use nationwide was up 1.3% from last year, and is up 28% from 2008, with 863,492 people receiving donations.

The Food Centre also keeps track of the amount of people who attended, saying that around 110 people per month use the service. However, Harrington fears these numbers don’t match the actual demand for food that students are facing.

“The concern is that people aren’t getting food, as the goal of the centre is to ensure food security, but people maybe missing out because they aren’t aware that the centre exists” – Liam Harrington

“The concern is that people aren’t getting food, as the goal of the centre is to ensure food security, but people maybe missing out because they aren’t aware that the centre exists. But certainly some of the customers we get are regulars to the centre, so at least some people are getting the help they need.”

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