author: kristian ferguson | news editor
hungry, hungry, students / jeremy davis
Students one of the fastest growing food bank users
University students across Canada, and here at home, are facing mounting levels of food insecurity.
The commonly accepted definition of food security is “physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet . . . dietary needs and food preferences for an active, healthy life,” as established by the Food and Agriculture Organization.
A study conducted at the University of Saskatchewan stated that 40 per cent of students who took the survey were experiencing some form of food insecurity.
In a Global News article, they state that the survey revealed that of that 40 per cent food-insecure group, “11 per cent are worried about running out of money and their ability to afford food; 21 per cent are sacrificing quality of food or skipping meals entirely, and just under eight per cent are considered severe: skipping entire days without a meal.”
A University of Regina student, who wished to remain anonymous, discussed their experiences with food insecurity for the Carillon.
“It is hard. It’s hard to focus on class, it’s hard to focus on work, when you know the only thing to eat at home is rice and beans,” they said. “It’s hard to really care about anything when you are just eating to survive.”
The U of R student population was noticing this especially as the student food bank program, the URSU Cares Pantry had a few days in which they couldn’t open earlier in the fall.
In an interview with the Leader-Post, URSU operations manager Neil Middlemiss noticed that they were receiving “less than we expected,” from their primary partner, the Regina Food Bank.
When the Carillon asked the student who agreed to be interviewed on whether or not they had taken advantage of the food bank or the URSU Cares Pantry, they said something that is not uncommon for many students.
“I kind of feel like I’ve failed or I’m ashamed or something,” they said. “I always feel like I don’t deserve it or that there is someone else who needs it more.”
When asked about their usual eating habits, they shared a sentiment that many students in Saskatchewan have.
“Just supper, usually. Just to make sure my food will last me until payday. I basically have to ration.”
Many students who are food insecure also avoid making use of emergency food services.
A Macleans article estimates that of food insecure students, only about 11 per cent of them have ever gone to a food bank.
The URSU Cares Pantry has somewhere around 400 students registered, but they typically only have enough to serve 200 of those students.
This also comes at a time in which the food bank has been looking especially for donations of both money and food. General food bank attendance has been on the rise in recent years in Saskatchewan, and they also reported that the general cost of food would be rising in 2018, likely part of what has led to the increase in food bank usage.
The people most at risk of being food insecure are students who have children or dependants, international students, and Indigenous students.
“I never feel like I’m ahead, I always feel that I am just struggling to keep up. It’s hard on my grades but it’s harder on my mental health,” said the anonymous student.
When asked about what might be able to help make the student feel more food secure, they had a few suggestions.
“More student loans would probably be the easiest,” they said. “Ideally, lower tuition, lower rent, or a higher minimum wage would all help too.”
In addition to food bank services, if students are in trouble or need financial help, URSU maintains an emergency bursary fund.