Queen's eases hunger pains
By Ed Stack
Universities across the country are being forced to deal with the growing trend of student poverty in the face of increasing tuition costs and decreasing accessibility to student loans.
Queen's University in Kingston opened an on-campus food bank last week, joining the ranks of many schools already forced to do so, including the University of Toronto and Trent.
An optional student fee and donations from organizations such as the Queen's Alma Mater Society have provided funding for the facility.
"The number of students visiting the Kingston food bank convinced the university there was a need for a better service," said Jeremy Krys, coordinator of Queen's food bank.
"Government aid has not been able to keep pace with the student poverty situation," Krys said. It is anticipated the main users of the program will be single parents, graduate students and as the term wears on, students who have exhausted their Ontario Student Assistance Plan money, he added.
Sam Castiglione, VP-student issues for Western's University Students' Council, feels the university does not need a food bank now, but it may in the future. "Considering the way they are being squeezed, students in five years will be so cash strapped that they will need a food bank."
Castiglione said he has never been approached about the need for more assistance for the hungry on campus, but he does not believe Western is immune to the government's cuts. "Western has the highest percentage of students who are receiving financial assistance," he said.
Krys expects the Queen's food bank will expand. "I am hoping to be able to supply hygiene and infant care products, as well as provide information about part-time employment, bursaries and loans."
Hoops Harrison, national director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, said student poverty has been growing steadily, proportional to student debt. He added the current method of evaluating students for financial assistance needs to be changed to place more emphasis on individual circumstances.
Glen Pearson, director of the London Food Bank, said he has not noticed an increase in the number of students using the service.
He added a food bank was considered for Western several years ago, but the idea was rejected because there was no apparent need. "We offered the university the use of our location and facilities should there ever be a need."