Fire Away: Hungry for Help

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Written by Stephanie Rennie

Students are provided with many vital services during their academic career at the University of Guelph. One of the most important of these services is the CSA Food Bank that students support through their annual tuition fees. Although the Food Bank is accustomed to assisting the hungry masses, it is now facing a financial crisis of its own.

The overall usage of the CSA Food Bank has increased by forty percent this fall, demonstrating a rise in the number of people utilizing this service as well as an increase in the number of times each member visits per month. In total, six hundred and three people rely on the vital services of the CSA Food Bank, forty seven of those being children.

With skyrocketing numbers, it is no wonder that the Food Bank is experiencing a dire financial crisis quite early in the academic year. The origin of this crisis began in September as traffic drastically increased and it became more difficult to keep the shelves stocked. In the month of September alone, half of the entire year’s budget was absorbed by the abundance of users.

The CSA Food Bank started with a budget of $49 000 to cover the operational costs for the entire year. However, with the growing need for food assistance, $38 000 of this budget was spent by the end of October. With $11 000 left over for the remainder of the fall semester and the entirety of the winter semester, this situation is quite bleak. In addition to the stress placed on the Food Bank services throughout the year, the month of November is especially strenuous on the budget as students are pecking away at the remaining crumbs of their OSAP loans. Food Bank Coordinator Laura Simon stated that $9000 of the remaining budget will amassed to aid those needing food assistance in this troublesome month, meaning that the Food Bank is “going into the winter semester with enough money for two weeks.” To prevent similar issues in the future, the Food Bank is in the process of discussing a referendum question that would increase the yearly fees paid by students.

So why are so many students suddenly relying on the services of the CSA Food Bank?

Laura Simon discussed the rising tuition fees as a major culprit contributing to financial difficulties among students. Simon also expressed the consequences of steep food costs as it impairs the ability of students to purchase adequate food, forcing them to rely on food assistance services. Consequently, this also places such services in a difficult position to attend to the rising number of users as food prices continue to increase. Furthermore, Laura discussed the unfortunate circumstances that students face when trying to find employment. In the past two years student employment has reached an all time low, leaving many students with inadequate funding to cover their necessities.

At this difficult time, the CSA Food Bank has no choice but to reduce operational hours. The monthly limit of thirty items has also been decreased to twenty items to ensure assistance is being provided to all.

Due to the varying levels of need among the six hundred users, students must keep in mind that of those depending on the services many are children, international students paying outrageous student fees and ineligible to obtain jobs, and other students in grave need of aid. Simon gave a description of those in need of this emergency service as people “compromising their nutrition, or in a financial position to not feed yourself to cover inflexible costs.” There are many other services providing assistance for those in need of food throughout the city, including the Guelph Food Bank and Drop in Centre. Simon stressed that this has “always been an emergency service” and urges students to “come when you need it, but keep in mind that we are in this position.”

The Guelph Campus Co-op is actively supporting the CSA Food Bank and has kindly donated $500 to assist with their current crisis. GCC is also accepting food and cash donations at the Guelph Campus Co-op Bookstore and Central office at 17 College Avenue West.

Stephanie Rennie is Editor-in-Chief of thecannon. Fire Away publishes every Thursday in The Cannon and in The Ontarion Student Newspaper at the University of Guelph.

The opinions posted on thecannon.ca reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces, including ones that run contrary to the opinion piece in question.

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