By Nazeefa Ahmed, October 24 2023—
This October, Air Canada and Global Medic donated food to the Students’ Union (SU) campus food bank. The airline and non-for-profit reached out to the SU to provide non-perishable items, which the SU will distribute to students in need.
In an interview with the Gauntlet, SU Vice President Student Life Ermia Rezaei-Afsah stated the increased demand for the food bank hampers.
“Requests have been up since July first by around 49 per cent or so which is unprecedented, so [the donation] is good help at a time where we need it,” said Afsah.
October is Food Security Awareness Month and the SU has workshops planned to educate students on grocery shopping and storing food. Additionally, there are many donation projects across campus such as the annual Trick or Eat and the food drive in the fall.
“This month we’re just working to raise more money for the food bank to get more non-perishables. We do prefer money because it allows us to cater to dietary restrictions and it also allows us to buy perishables that’d be otherwise unable to accept donations.”
Afsah describes how the housing crisis often puts greater strain on students and decreases their ability to purchase food or make time to cook it for themselves.
“How much of your monthly paycheck goes towards housing determines how much money gets spent on food,” said Afsah. “Depending on whether you live on or off campus, you also have different access to affordable grocery stores. You may not have access to a safe kitchen or may not have access to full kitchen equipment to be able to cook for yourself. A lot of students who are working more to be able to pay for rent are buying food from restaurants and spending more money.”
Afsah describes why international students make up the highest proportion of users at the food bank at 90 per cent.
“That trend has only been upwards recently because of the housing crisis, inflation and general affordability of prices. In addition to that, we’ve seen that a lot of international students have hyperinflation issues at home,” said Afsah. “So, often they commute with the money to pay for the degrees, but over time because of inflation in their home countries, that money disappears, and it’s not enough for them to pay for tuition. They’re left here struggling, and a lot of them can’t go back.”
Afsah stated that the SU has been asking the U of C to sign The President’s Commitment to Food and Nutrition Security by the non-profit Presidents United to Solve Hunger (PUSH). Afsah believes that there needs to be a greater institutional commitment.
“I think that there’s a lot more work to be done on the part of the University, because the majority of the time the most consistent food security initiative on this campus has been the food bank, and we’d like to see more from the university.”
More information about donating to or receiving food from the SU Campus Food Bank can be found on the SU website. The U of C also compiles resources on their food security page.