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3,299 people visited the Food Bank in 2011

Spencer Van Dyk | Fulcrum Staff

Photo by Justin Labelle

One in 10 students on the University of Ottawa’s campus have used the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa’s (SFUO) Food Bank, according to recent statistics released by the SFUO.

With 3,299 students using the Food Bank in 2011, and an undergraduate population of 34,708 students, the SFUO’s food bank would appear to service approximately 9.5 per cent of the undergraduate population. According to Chris Hynes, director of the Food Bank, this statistic fails to take into consideration graduate students using the service, as well as any possible dependents of students.

“We do not just serve students here in the university,” said Hynes. “Students here are very diverse, and not all are single without children. We serve a lot of clients that have children or families that they need to take care of, so their needs incorporate the needs of their children as well. They do not have to just feed themselves; they need to feed their children as well. We serve families of up to six members, so we’ll serve just one individual person, or a two-person family, all the way up to six persons.”

Graduate students accounted for 6,004 of the students at the U of O in 2011, and if they are also using the food bank, that means that that the adjusted percentage of students using the food bank is 8.1 per cent. Some people are questioning why there has been such an increase in usage of the Food Bank since its inception in 2007.

“In 2007 when we opened the centre, we had 259 students come through the service for the first year,” explained Anne-Marie Roy, vp communications of the SFUO. “Last year, we had 3,299 students exactly that came through the service, so the service definitely exploded, and students are definitely using it much more than when it was first started.”

Roy said that the increase in usage has been gradual over the last few years, and doesn’t necessarily reflect a drastic increase in need. Hynes added that most are frequent users, and that the Food Bank does not require students to bring any financial information in order to use the service. Whether the increase in use is due to awareness of the service, or greater financial struggle among students is unclear.

“I think it’s definitely something that needs to be looked at,” Hynes said. “Whenever there is a service like that, whose use is increasing, you definitely need to take a look. I would say that when the service first started, it was new, it had just started, and then numbers were fairly low. I think a portion of our increase can be attributed to awareness, so people know that we’re here, more people are aware that the service is offered.”

Roy said that for many students, food is often at the bottom of a long list of things they need.

“It really just comes down to students not being able to manage all of the financial requirements that they have … So by the time you pay tuition fees, and then you incorporate rent, food often gets put to the bottom of the list, or worse, they purchase things that are not as healthy, so really their food security is at risk.”

Roy added that any student looking for additional support and means of saving money should explore mechanisms within the

SFUO structure, such as the Agora, where they can often purchase textbooks at a discounted price.
Hynes said their primary means of providing support is in supplying ‘food hampers,’ which are available monthly and contain basic food items, such as frozen protein (chicken or beef), fruits, vegetables, breads, pastas, milk and dairy products, and other essential kitchen items.

The SFUO Food Bank is supplied by the Ottawa Food Bank, but is always accepting donations, which are much appreciated. Donations can be brought to the Food Bank in the basement of the university centre.