February 18, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 77  

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More students using food banks

By Jonathan Yazer
Gazette Staff

The Canadian Federation of Students has reported an increasing number of student unions at Ontario universities are providing food bank services to students falling below the level of subsistence.

“We looked primarily at food banks run and managed by student unions,” said Michael Conlon, director of research for CFS. According to Conlon, more than 20 per cent of provincial student federations operate food banks.

Conlon also discovered rising shortages among such food banks. “For the most part, food banks are running out of food quicker and earlier in the year,” he said.

Kim Lazenby, Brock University Students’ Union VP-student services, said the BUSU’s food voucher service had recently endured financial strain. “This year, actually, we exceeded what we budgeted for,” she explained.

“We originally budgeted, in May [2003], $250 for vouchers,” said Brandon Larry, president of the BUSU. “So far, we’ve given out $550 worth of vouchers. Compared to previous years, the increase in our food budget has been quite substantial.”

John Fedy, VP-internal for the University of Waterloo’s Federation of Students, said the food bank service at Waterloo was also facing pressure. “Each year there’s been a growing increase in the use of our food bank,” he said.

Fedy said there has been an increase in the number of hours worked by the co-ordinators in the food bank office, which translated into an increased need for the service on campus.

“As students become more aware of this and as tuition fees rise, students have a greater need to cut expenses from their budgets,” he said.

Larry said he believes the shortage at Brock’s food bank can be traced to multiple factors. “Some feel it’s because of an increase in tuition. Others feel many other things. Personally, I think rising costs of education do have an impact. That includes not only tuition fees but also things like rent and books. And other things have an impact, too, like the cost of food.”

Adrienne Kennedy, VP-campus issues for the University Students’ Council at Western, said the USC food bank is not facing shortages. “We usually get a steady influx of donations from the London community and we’ve generally been able to meet demand, which is on average 10 requests per week.”

Kennedy said since the USC implemented an anonymous distribution system for its food bank last year, there has been a noticeable spike in student demand for rations.
“Definitely, the increase in the number of food banks is attributable to rising tuition costs and other costs of post-secondary education, such as rent, utilities and food costs,” Kennedy said.

Conlon said an additional concern for many student-run food banks is they may funnel donations away from other charitable organizations.



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