UVSS FOOD BANK USAGE RISES
One of the areas around food security and accessibility on the UVic campus is the food bank. The food bank is one of the resources each student at UVic pays for to ad structural support for the students of UVic.
Still, there are various issues around stigma and accessibility of the food bank, and the evidence below shows that there is a real need for increasing support of it.
Oct. 08, 2010
The UVSS Emergency Food Bank is trying to fill its empty shelves with clothing and other essential items for struggling students.
Just one month into the school year, the UVic Students’ Society’s (UVSS) Emergency Food Bank is seeing record usage.
Sall says that, during the summer, she stocked the Food Bank once a week. Now she’s stocking it daily.
While the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico stole the news this summer, food prices quietly went up. Wheat crops in the Prairies were hammered by wet weather, while crops in Europe faced a drought. When combined with high fuel costs, and high demand for bio-fuels, this caused international food prices to rise five per cent in August, the largest one-month increase since mid-2009. This has had a visible effect on both student use of the food bank, and the Food Bank’s budget.
“There’s been a noticeable upward trend in students using the Food Bank,” said Sall. “I think it’s a combination of things. I think it’s student loans, it’s student jobs either staying the same or decreasing, it’s tuition increasing — there’s been another two per cent increase this semester. So I think it’s a combination of things that come together and just make accessing education a little bit more difficult, and making ends meet more difficult.”
The UVSS began advertising the service in January for the first time, which has likely contributed to the increase in usage.
“We try and walk a fine line of trying to let students know that this service is available to them while trying to make sure it isn’t abused,” said Sall.
The Food Bank is available to UVic undergraduate and graduate students. To ensure that the student-funded service isn’t co-opted by people from off-campus, everyone must show their student ID.
The UVSS also keeps track of student numbers to make sure the service isn’t used more than once a week by each student.
The Food Bank receives $0.50 from every undergraduate student’s UVSS fees, giving the service an approximate budget of $15,000. This levy has remained the same since 2003. It also relies on cash and food donations from local businesses. Sall is currently brainstorming different ways to fundraise in order to keep the Food Bank running. The recent Sleeping Bag Drive-In event was one such fundraiser.
Sall has also lowered Food Bank costs by shopping at Costco.
“When the previous director of academics did orders for the foodbank they’d be around $300–$400 and they’d last a week and a half, if that. And now I do monthly runs to Costco and I spend usually around $600 and we can do about a month’s worth of food, if not more. So in that sense it’s good,” she explained.
Sall isn’t the only one looking to bring new ideas to the Food Bank. UVSS Director-at-Large Dylan Sherlock is looking to help students by adding more items to the frequently empty shelves of the Food Bank.
Currently, the UVSS has a lot of empty shelf space. According to Sherlock, this gives students the impression they should come back another time. “We’re faced with the problem of either removing the shelves, or expanding the services of the Food Bank,” said Sherlock, “obviously, the preference is for the latter.”
One proposal suggests keeping clothing on the shelves for students. Last week, extra t-shirts from the UVic Lipdub were added and a sign was posted. There are also plans to host a used clothing sale, with the proceeds being used to pay for things like socks.
Any leftover clothes will be placed in the “clothing bank.”
According to Sall, the UVSS doesn’t have the money to purchase clothes, so a clothing bank would need to survive on donations.
Sherlock is also working with the Anti-Violence Project and UVic Health Services to keep condoms and lubricant stocked in the Food Bank.
“If people can’t afford to buy food, they’re probably not going to prioritize condoms above that,” explained Sherlock.
Students are encouraged to ask questions and give suggestions about the Food Bank, especially those already using it. Sherlock says that students are best off bringing their questions and suggestions to the UVSS Board of Directors, or the Student Services committee, which makes policy decisions concerning the Food Bank.