Hunger Awareness Week was launched last week to create consciousness about the scope of hunger in the country.
Organized by Food Banks Canada, the foremost goal of the campaign is to spark conversation about hunger and how to alleviate it.
According to the Mississauga Food Bank, thirteen thousand individuals use its services every month, mainly due to insufficient income and the high cost of living. The food bank provides 2.2 million meals to the community through local food banks, breakfast clubs at schools, and other means.
According to the Mississauga Food Bank’s 2015 “The Face of Hunger in Mississauga” report, in 2015 alone, beneficiaries of the Mississauga Food Bank were divided into 40 percent children, seven percent seniors, and 53 percent adults. Of these, eight percent are currently enrolled in postsecondary education.
A 2013 report from the Canadian Federation of Students, “Task Force on Campus Food Services”, noted the existence of food service monopolies across campuses in Ontario through companies including Sodexo, Aramark, and Chartwells. The report states that these monopolies create a serious lack of diverse food options for those requiring gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, halal, or kosher meals.
The food centre on campus, run by UTMSU, provides food to students and their dependents. In 2014, the food centre was visited 503 times, a massive increase from just 91 visits in 2013.
UTMSU VP internal Francesco Otello-DeLuca blamed the rising costs of tuition and living as factors, along with increased enrollment, for the increased usage of the food centre.
“The increase in usage is also due to rising food prices, especially on campus. This directly corresponds to the amount of people we get using the food centre service,” he said.
The UTMSU Food Centre is funded by a student levy. Earlier this month, The Medium reported that $5,581 was left unspent out of $14,560.32 collected through the levy in the 2014/15 school year.
Asked to explain the leftover funds, Otello-DeLuca said that UTMSU has increased the amount of levy funding it plans to use this year.
“We have increased the allocation for food purchases from $6,000 to $9,000 this year, to accommodate a potential increase in student needs by 33 percent,” he said.
“If we do not have so much demand to require an increase in allocation, we have fiduciary responsibility to allocate the unspent resources to the operating budget pending future decisions by the elected members of the board of directors.”
The food centre also received 2,370 pounds of food from the Mississauga Food Bank last year. The UTM library also provides donations to the UTMSU Food Centre through its annual Food for Fines program. Last year, The Medium reported that 1,244 items were donated as a result of the initiative.