By Hayley Hanks
Yesterday was Giving Tuesday at the Ryerson Good Food Centre, a Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) equity service centre, which works to reduce the impact of food insecurity on Ryerson community members.
Giving Tuesday is a global movement occurring each year after Black Friday and Cyber Monday as an opportunity to raise money for different charities and causes. This year, Ryerson matched donations to the Good Food Centre dollar for dollar, up to a maximum of $10,000.
Dean Hughes, the director of annual giving at Ryerson’s University Advancement said the Good Food Centre received just over $5,500 from 192 donors.
“It’s very tangible and it’s very immediate,” said Hughes. “We thought we’d do something that would appeal to alumni and do something that’s different from the kind of work we do the rest of the year, and something that would impact student lives right away.”
The campaign asks for donations from Ryerson alumni, community members, faculty, staff and students in order to support food security on campus. The campaign is run through email and social media.
Last year’s Giving Tuesday campaign supported donations to both the Good Food Centre and the Ryerson Urban Farm, and raised $8,000 for the Good Food Centre.
Kimberly Vaz, a third-year social work student at Ryerson, has worked for the Good Food Centre since May. Vaz said the donations made today will help the centre run for the rest of the school year and the summer.
“We still have to get through the next eight months and that’s really tricky… having this additional funding allows us to do more bulk ordering in the food bank. It allows us to do more food-related programming, so we’re really excited about that,” Vaz said.
Next school year, the Good Food Centre will be funded by students’ tuition fees. This was the result of an RSU Equity Centre referendum that would take $10 each academic year from full-time students to support the Good Food Centre and the Sexual Assault Survivor Support Line.
According to CBC News, it’s estimated that by September 2018 the centre’s funding will increase from just under $25,000 to more than $186,000.
Vaz says this will give the centre the ability to order more food in bulk, and get more fresh food like legume-based proteins. The budget will also allow the centre to expand their food-related programming for community members.
The centre has three part-time staff and around eight volunteers who help with deliveries and programming. Vaz says although the bigger budget will help expand the services it provides, they will also need to look for a larger space to operate. The team will look for a space with more fridges, freezers, and a kitchenette with a sink to help with their cooking programs.
“We can barely function out of that space as it is now because there’s been a growing demand for service,” Vaz said.
Deliveries to the centre arrive on Tuesdays from the Daily Bread Food Bank, one of the largest food banks in Canada. It supports almost 200 food programs in Toronto.
Throughout the week, Vaz says the centre has trouble keeping the shelves stocked. Although canned goods are always in supply, fresh produce and dairy products go quickly.
Deliveries fluctuate week to week and also depend on larger donations made to the Daily Bread Food Bank. During the holidays, Vaz says people are generous with their donations. During other parts of the school year, donations are slower, affecting how much food the Ryerson community can access.
If the Good Food Centre has a busy or slow week, it can impact the delivery size two weeks down the road, meaning the food that gets delivered is not always the same kind or the same amount.
The number of people accessing the centre’s services also fluctuates based on how busy the semester is, or how finances of students deplete as the semester continues.
The Good Food Centre tries to accommodate different dietary needs and restrictions, including gluten, dairy and meat. Vaz says usually, the centre has Halal chicken or hot dogs available, and doesn’t usually order beef or pork due to lack of demand.
The centre also tries to stock non-dairy milk options for vegan or dairy-intolerant community members, and gluten-free options for those who have gluten sensitivities or celiac disease. According to Vaz, the donations made on Giving Tuesday will also help the centre stock more options for people with dietary restrictions.
What makes her work rewarding is developing relationships with people that use the food bank’s services.
“Sometimes I’ll see (community members) on campus and we’ll have a little ‘hello’ moment, and I’ll be like, ‘Please stop by. I have the dairy-free milk,’” said Vaz. “It means that that individual can access something that they actually need.”