Food bank shortage raises questions about funding

Sept. 17 marked the first day the UVSS Food Bank ran out of food this semester. Despite an order of food that came in on Monday, Sept. 16, the shelves were bone dry by the next day, and for the day following. Boma Brown, the UVSS Food Bank co-ordinator, said, “[We] got another delivery on Thursday, but that ran out really fast too. It was quite shocking actually.” This, she says, is due to more undergrads visiting the food bank this year.

Brown attributes the climb in food bank popularity to successful UVSS promotions. The UVSS website now features a large banner that simply reads “the uvss foodbank” and mentions its location, room B017 in the SUB. The banner, as well as word of mouth, have contributed to higher student traffic through the food bank’s doors. While this increased exposure has resulted in more people offering to volunteer, it has not resulted in extra funding from either the university or outside sources. In March, a 50-cent increase per semester was added to full-time student UVSS fees, with a 25-cent increase for part-time students, benefitting the food bank. Brown thinks there should also be “some sort of external source of funding that’s not coming out from making students pay more fees.”

Vancouver-Point Grey MLA David Eby said in a phone interview, “The idea of people succeeding at school is not consistent with the idea of people being hungry in class.” When asked what he thought of the hike in food bank demand, he said, “It reflects what I’m hearing from campuses all across British Columbia, which is . . . you can’t even borrow enough money to pay tuition, accommodation and food in British Columbia,” which is “having a major impact on B.C. students.” He stressed that this is a “province-wide problem.”

Eby feels that if students could receive more funding, they wouldn’t need to use the food bank as much. This could eliminate days where “No Food” has to be scrawled on the whiteboard outside the food bank. However, Brown says, “In my experiences here, people sort of use the food bank just because it’s here, not because they necessarily can’t afford to go to their local grocery store to get food . . . So I don’t know how the student loans sort of come into play . . . I think if students had more funding, they’d still come to the food bank, to be honest.”

High-demand items include peanut butter, canned fish, mac and cheese, fresh seasonal fruit, canned vegetables, milk, cheese, and eggs. This selection is often peppered with other items that may have been donated, such as toiletries. Over 90 per cent of the food is purchased from Thrifty Foods, and Cobs Bread frequently donates lots of bread. For more info on the campus food bank, check out uvss.ca, or to contact the UVSS Food Bank, email foodbank@uvss.ca.

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