For many students, it’s hard to admit they may need to use the university’s food bank sometimes.
For Meagan Smith, coordinator of the General Brock food banks, this was once her story.
“Personally, I was living paycheck to paycheck during the school year and with everything else, it was hard to keep a budget,” Smith said. “I just think it was very helpful.”
The Brock University Student Union website states, the food bank is a service that addresses the growing issues of food insecurity among post-secondary and graduate students.
“Students mainly get dried goods, vegetables, a lot of canned goods and cereal,” Smith said.
In other terms, they get non-perishable food, $10 grocery vouchers and some products for personal hygiene.
“They get a week’s worth of groceries,” Smith said.
Student Vice-President of Finance and Administration Bilal Khan clarified that the Food First Program is funded through BUSU’s operating budget.
“This year we increased the budget to $18,000 from $11,000. In addition, we have under $2,000 worth of gift vouchers for distribution,” Khan said.
The program allows undergraduate students to use the food bank three times per semester and the graduate students to use it only once.
“We are just looking to battle food insecurity for students on campus.” She said, “[However], it’s not meant to be a main source of nutrition for any student.”
Although a lot of students are embarrassed to ask for help or ask for food, Smith said that Brock has two ways of giving out the packages.
“You can pick up your package at General Brock or you can have things delivered to an anonymous locker,” Smith said.
Other universities have food banks but “I don’t think they have such a anonymity like Brock does,” Smith stated. “That’s why I feel like our food bank might be more successful than others.”
In Smith’s case, admitting she had financial struggles during university was hard.
“Nobody would say if they [were] going to a food bank but it’s more of an internal thing,” Smith explained.
This is why she preferred to request an order and wait for the bag to be placed in a random locker at Welch Hall.
All she had to do was wait for a code to be sent via e-mail to be able to unlock the padlock.
Smith also stated, if undergraduates or graduates have certain dietary restrictions, the food bank will accommodate specific foods for the individual.
“We do have some gluten free items and we have soy milk,” Smith said. “We [also] ask in the comments if you have any allergies.”
Vice-President of External Affairs Peter Henen explains, “The food bank is there to alleviate students who are in these stressful situations.” He continued, “We try to make it as acceptable as possible, so no one feels any shame.”
However, Smith noted, there is a certain stigma surrounding food banks.
“I totally understand that there’s stigma and it’s not the easiest thing to ask for, I mean you’re asking for food but no one should have to go hungry,” Smith said. “Nobody should be ashamed.” She continued, “I’ve heard people say I’m not going to buy this because I need this textbook and in Canada that should not be an issue.”
Khan said, “This year’s executive team is further committed to seeking donations from our partners in the community and exploring other options to continue to expand this program.”
Smith repeated herself,
“No individual should be struggling with something as basic as food and shelter in Canada.”