Last month, the University of Toronto Mississauga Student’s Union (UTMSU) re-opened their Food Centre, a food bank-like service that provides non-perishable items to University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) students.

The Food Centre’s revival comes after it was abandoned due to a communication breakdown between the UTMSU and the Food Centre Coordinator in the 2017/2018 academic year.

The service, headed by the UTMSU’s VP Equity, Leena Arbaji, aims to provide food insecure students with accessible and healthy food alternatives to the existing ones on campus.

Arbaji proposed the revitalization of the Food Centre after observing the unaffordable and unhealthy food options on campus.

“Sometimes I would have to take the bus home, so that meant I could only afford a bagel from Tim Hortons,” she said. Observing experiences like her own propelled Arbaji to ensure that students did not have to choose between a meal and bus fare.

Located in DV2102, the Food Centre resembles a micro-grocery store. Its shelves are stocked with canned fruit, dehydrated meat, rice, and pasta. The space also has a section dedicated to sanitary products such as razors, toothpaste, and toilet paper.

All UTM students are entitled to use the Food Centre. It is student-driven, and funded by a $0.50 levy included in tuition. Students only need to provide their name and student number, that is recorded in a private log, to begin using the service. Each student is eligible for up to twenty items per week, free of charge. The Mississauga Food Bank provides non-perishable items, while the Food Centre Coordinator, Nicole Sciuli purchases the sanitary products from Walmart.

According to fourth-year student and biology major Cynthia Ton, the Food Centre provides access to basic human rights, it’s not just a privilege.

“Many people think that they are not ‘poor enough’ to use the Food Centre, but if you have ever had to choose an unhealthy option or smaller portion just to get through the day, the Food Centre is for you,” she said in an interview with The Medium.

The Food Centre is advertised as a service for any food insecure student, regardless of socioeconomic status. “We want to encourage students to use the service. Our goals are to prioritize student needs and advocate for food equity across campus,” said Sciuli.

Students are able to make needs-based requests for food products and sanitary items at the Centre.

This article has been corrected.
  1. November 5, 2018 at 5 a.m.: The article previously stated that the UTMSU Food Center was co-managed by the Equity and Diversity Office at UTM. However, the Food Center is not co-managed by the Equity and Diversity Office and any mention of this has been removed from the article.
    Notice to be printed on November 12, 2018 (Volume 45, Issue 9).

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