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Empty shelves were a common sight for hungry students relying on Ryerson’s food bank over the past two months.
Since September, the Good Food Centre has been hit with its worst food shortage in years because of smaller food deliveries from Daily Bread Food Bank, the centre’s primary source of donations.
Thanks to can-collecting in Rosedale on Halloween, the food bank restocked its shelves, but Good Food Centre facilitator Drew Silverthorn predicted those cans would be gone within an hour after the weekly Tuesday delivery, which is when most students visit.
After an inquiry from The Ryersonian on Thursday, Daily Bread representatives said they were unaware of the shortage and pledged to double their food delivery this week.
Executive director Gail Nyberg said the shortage was due to the month-to-month process Daily Bread uses to assign delivery amounts, which are based on food demand from the previous month.
“It works really well with a regular food bank,” Nyberg said. “It doesn’t work so well for a university or college setting.
“Of course the food that comes in September would be based on what’s served in August, and obviously there’s (a) problem.”
Nyberg recommended the Good Food Centre contact Daily Bread in the future to remind them about rises in visits.
Silverthorn said the shortage was in part the fault of his food bank.
“Support from Daily Bread is phenomenal, but we try to respect their limitations and not ask in a way that suggests special treatment,” Silverthorn said.
Ryerson president Sheldon Levy told The Ryersonian he hadn’t heard about the shortage.
The university has provided funding assistance to the Good Food Centre in the past when its operators have reached out for help, Levy said, and would be happy to do so again.
“I wouldn’t say regularly, but at times when it has been difficult … we have provided financial support to them,” Levy said.
For Silverthorn, running the centre goes beyond subsidies from the university.
Struggling with demand for food is constant given how hard it is to secure diverse food sources, staff to operate, or resources from Ryerson’s community.
The Good Food Centre is unique among equity service centres run by the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) and Continuing Education Students’ At Ryerson (CESAR). On top of the advocacy and events the other equity centres do, they run the food bank as a free service for the Ryerson community.
All equity co-ordinators under the RSU and CESAR, including the three food bank staff, are approved for work-study jobs for a maximum 15 hours each week.
“We run on a tight budget,” he said. “Three of us can only do so much.”
When he sees student groups collecting food on campus for non-Ryerson causes, Silverthorn says he always wonders why they don’t look closer to home.
“It confuses me a bit and frustrates me,” Silverthorn said. “I’m not sure if people are aware of us or their peers facing food insecurity on campus.”
Mahan Royanipour is a third-year mechanical engineering student. As an international student living alone, he has depended on the Good Food Centre every week for the past two years.
Many of Royanipour’s friends use the food bank, which is no surprise; The Hunger Report, which the Good Food Centre released in March, reported that engineering students made up most of the Good Food Centre’s 422 visitors from 2013 to 2014. Food bank users also include low-income students and students with children.
During the shortage, Royanipour found the room was empty by the time he visited, or there wasn’t enough food to meet his needs.
“This is a great opportunity for people like me, but (I am) disappointed,” he said. “It’s Ryerson. You expect more.”
Royanipour said he would appreciate more timely deliveries and more fresh food, especially vegetables.
This article was published in the print edition of The Ryersonian on Nov. 4, 2015.