Vancouver students struggling to stay fed, food banks say

Feb 25 2022, 12:22 am

Living through a pandemic, inflation, the Vancouver housing market, the opioid epidemic, tragically low wages, and extreme weather disasters is hard enough as it is.

Students have even more to deal with: debt, never-ending homework, frustrated professors, expectant parents — the list goes on and on. 

With all that to think about, they shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not they can afford to feed themselves. 

But that’s exactly what has been happening in the city, a Vancouver food bank says.

Jodie Ou with the Greater Vancouver Food Bank confirms they saw an increasing trend of international students visiting them in 2021 — and once it started growing, it never stopped.

The bank registers over 500 new clients each month, about 37% of whom say they need help due to loss of income, low wages, or pension. 

According to Ou, 267 students have signed up as food bank clients since July 2021, and about a quarter of their clients are children or youth under 18.

However, it’s important to consider the bank is also supporting more people in general this year: about 10,000 lives each month, compared to around 9,000 in 2021.

“We continue to work with industry partners and donors to distribute more food and healthier food than ever,” she said in an email to Daily Hive on February 24.

The reason why students need more support now hasn’t been proven yet, but it likely has something to do with the fact that it’s extremely tough to survive here already.

School is expensive, rent is expensive, and groceries are way more expensive than they’ve ever been in most students’ lives. Also, a lot of Canadians are broke already.

Like Ou, Executive Director of the Richmond Food Bank Hajira Hussai is worried about food insecurity on campuses.

In 2021, about 7.5% of the people they served said they were attending a post-secondary institute.

They helped 137 post-secondary students in 2020. That figure rose to 242 the next year, making for a 76% increase in the number of students accessing our services compared to the year prior.

“Since many students rely on their employment income to pay for tuition and living expenses, if that source of employment is unsteady, or hindered for any reason, then food is the first expense that gets compromised,” she said.

“Skipping meals will ultimately affect their overall health and subsequently their academics.”

That’s why they try their best to alleviate food insecurity for not just students, but anybody who needs help finding something to eat.

“We are here to help,” says Hassai.

Many universities and colleges have a food bank of their own, including UBC, KPU, and more. There are also plenty of other food banks in the Metro Vancouver area which can be located with this nifty tool.”

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