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Food Justice Now combats food insecurity on campus

By Julieanne Acosta, October 14 2022

October marks food security month and as students face tuition hikes and rising costs of living, many have fought for ways to combat food insecurity. At the University of Calgary, Food Justice Now is a student-run initiative that’s main mission is to address this problem on our campus. 

In an interview with the Gauntlet, members Frankie Berardino and Harris Ahmad talked about the importance of this club for the campus community. 

“We’re a part of Students for Direct Action — a club on campus — and we aim to create a long-term and autonomous student food collective,” said Ahmad. “The Meal Exchange survey from 2021 further proves our mission and showed us that what we’re doing makes an impact. We’re committed to providing free low-cost meals that anyone can access and they’re almost always gluten-free and vegan.”

Meal Exchange is an initiative that gathers data on student food security and campus food systems to help student initiatives — like Food Justice Now — by mobilizing the data they collect. The published report in 2021 for the U of C showed that 66.1 per cent of student respondents indicated they are facing food insecurity. The report also notes that students most impacted by food insecurity were Indigenous, East/South East Asian, Latino, Middle Eastern, international students and those in the LGBTQIA2S+ community. 

“Based on the survey, if you’re in a classroom, you’re looking at two-thirds of those people potentially facing food insecurity,” said Berardino. “Food is a basic human right and this is something that so many people on campus aren’t having access to and that’s wrong. Students get used to the idea that they can just eat ramen for every meal and ramen is food but is it food that’s actually satisfying you? Is it nutritious? Does it give you the fuel to get through the day?”

When you’re hungry you can’t show up. You’re [struggling to] focus in class and that’s a reality for students on campus,” continued Ahmad.

Some may have noticed the initiative’s first free meal of the semester — apple overnight oats — being given away at clubs week. 

The group plans to serve a zucchini-based dish based from one of their members’ home countries during their upcoming event.

“We really want to target culturally sensitive foods and have students try different foods,” said Ahmad. 

“Our next event is Oct. 17 outside the Sustainability Resource Centre in the Science B hallway,” continued Berardino. “We’re planning on being there from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.” 

The two note that the initiative is always looking for volunteers in any capacity. 

“If there’s anyone on campus and you’re passionate about food insecurity, please come talk to us. We’re always looking for people. We’re always wanting to connect with our community,” said Berardino. 

To learn more about Food Justice Now visit their Instagram @food_justice_now or email them at studentsfordirectaction@gmail.com. To donate to the cause, e-transfers are accepted at their email with the subject line “Food Justice Now.”

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