Addressing the State of Food Insecurity...

Addressing the State of Food Insecurity on Canadian Post-Secondary Campuses

by Sarah Leung
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

Many students need to juggle many tasks while studying at post-secondary institutions. Worries about tuition, jobs, and rent are common, that some may not have enough time to consider another important one: food. The stereotype of college/university-aged adults living on instant ramen meals daily is one joked around frequently, but that reality is not far from the truth. Many Canadian post-secondary students struggle with food insecurity, which means they cannot access enough healthy foods on a consistent basis.

Defining Food Insecurity in Canada

Food insecurity works on multiple levels. Simply getting enough food to eat is not enough, the quality and consistent access to that food also matters. The Government of Canada defines food insecurity as:

  • The inability to get or eat an acceptable quality and/or quantity of food in “socially acceptable ways”
  • Or the “uncertainty that one will be able to do so”

The latest report by Statistics Canada from November 2023 showed that food insecurity rose among Canadians in 2022. 18 per cent of Canadian families experienced some sort of food insecurity over the past year. This marked an increase by two per cent compared to 2021’s numbers.

Food Insecurity Among Post-Secondary Students

Numbers of food insecurity are even larger among post-secondary students. During these years, many students need to consider many expenses when they may not have a lot of support. While anyone can attend school at any age, those attending post-secondary at younger ages may lack much financial support. A 2021 study by Meal Exchange surveyed 13 post-secondary institutions across Canada, which showed that 41.7 per cent of students faced food insecurity that year. This affected those between ages 30 and 34 the most (72.5 per cent of that demographic), with the 25 to 29 age group behind them at 66.3 per cent.

When looking at a wider range of institutions, the numbers still apply there. A 2022 study by researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) looked at institutions across North America and found that approximately 20 to 50 per cent of post-secondary students face food insecurity. This study wanted to see how best institutions can help students with food hubs: places where students can access food and support.

Supporting Students

Many Canadian institutions offer some sort of food security support. This can happen through a dedicated school food bank, through financial support, or other means. One of the common places this happens is through a school’s student union, which might offer their own food initiatives. Though Canadian student unions often operate separately from their respective schools, many still provide much-needed services for their members.

Some examples of food programs offered by Canadian student unions include:

Outside of school food banks, other options such as bursaries, grocery gift cards, and community fridges exist. Many schools, like the University of Calgary and York University, list their food supports and resources on their website. Each food initiative offered by institutions varies but they are worth looking into for any student needing help.

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