No one said a student’s life was easy, but for some college students their time at school can be compromised further when they face the challenges of hunger or homelessness.
A recent survey entitled Hungry for Knowledge published by the Meal Exchange, a student-focussed hunger awareness group, reports 39 per cent of post-secondary students are going without nutritious food.
This situation is prevalent, if somewhat hidden, on the campus of Durham College (DC) and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT).
The Student Association’s (SA) outreach program, located in room 1048 of the Simcoe Building, runs the Campus Food Centre. There are also two smaller satellite centres in the Whitby and downtown Oshawa locations.
According to Nicole Shillingford-Grell, SA Outreach Services support coordinator, the food bank helps hundreds of students and has had an increase of 60 new registrants since the start of this semester.
The reasons for a student needing to use the service are varied, she said.
“Maybe there’s some kind of homelessness or a situation with their family,” said Shillingford-Grell. “Maybe they’re kicked out, a lot of the stories are students who become members of the LGTBQ community and get kicked out of their house.”
The program works on a points system based on family size and full-time students can access the program once every two weeks until a year after they graduate.
Fresh produce items are free of points, but everything is on a first-come, first-served basis. Students need to register at room 1048 in the Simcoe Building to access the service. The centre is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Apart from servicing needy students, the Campus Food Centre is always looking for volunteers and donations from the campus community. Although Feed the Need in Durham (FTND) delivers 30 full boxes of food every Wednesday, Shillingford-Grell said, “we are always struggling to keep it full.”
The coordinator indicated Items such as oils, hygiene products and cash donations are always welcome.
Feedback from clients of the Campus Food Centre has been positive.
“They get to choose and have the freedom of coming in and picking the items,” said Shillingford-Grell. “We try to make the space really inviting and non-judgmental.”
Camille Talag, Outreach Services event and volunteer coordinator, is always looking to recruit new volunteers. There is a mandatory orientation and training that happens every semester.
“It’s a lot of work,” said Shillingford-Grell. “We depend a lot on volunteers and placement students.”
Volunteers will also be needed at the end of the upcoming food drive.
“The annual holiday food drive is coming up,” said Talag. “It’s a combined effort between the college, the university and the Student Association.”
According to the SA website, last year the initiative provided assistance to 274 students and their families. The target this year is to raise $50,000 due to the expected increase in the number of full-time students who will register to receive the food drive hampers.
The SA could use some extra hands to help pack and deliver hampers on Dec. 18 at 9 a.m. at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Centre.
Other fundraising efforts include a Toonie Toll on Nov. 15 from 7 a.m. – 9 a.m., a UOIT Ridgebacks Puck Toss Nov. 25 at 7:30 p.m. and a poinsettia sale from Nov. 21 – Dec.16.