Food insecurity may be a bigger problem at Ryerson than most expect, said Ryerson’s Good Food Centre in its first Hunger Report released on Feb. 26.
The report revealed that more than 400 Ryerson students and faculty members signed up for the service and more than 2,500 visits were made to the Good Food Centre last year. The centre is a food bank run by the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) and was previously known as the Community Food Room.
The Hunger Report, which featured data from the 2013/2014 academic year, was compiled by students Anthony Nguyen, Danielle Labonté and Drew Silverthorn.
Silverthorn said some of what the group found was unexpected.
“There were some things that we were surprised about, like how many engineering students were using our services, how many of our members have children,” said Silverthorn.
According to the report, almost 30 per cent of the centre’s members are from the Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science. These students also happen to have the highest tuition fees — up to $10,198 per year.
The researchers who put together the report also found out that even the maximum loans that OSAP offers to students do not cover all the expenses of living in Toronto.
They factored in costs for rent, food, transportation and miscellaneous expenses and found there to be a yearly shortfall of $1,232 of women and $1,712 for men.
According to the Good Food Centre, an overly competitive summer job market is another reason why students are dealing with food insecurity.
The Good Food Centre, located in Room 209 of the Student Campus Centre, has been providing the Ryerson community with emergency food relief for more than 20 years. Any student or faculty member can sign up for the service, as long as they fill in a “non-invasive” questionnaire based on demographics.
Users of the food bank are set up on a credit system. They receive an average of 10 credits per week to collect food, which the report said is a three-day supply of non-perishable food items and fresh produce.
“If people have dependents, whether that be children, or say a sibling that they’re supporting, they can get five additional credits per dependent,” said Silverthorn. The report showed that 10 per cent of its members are parents.
He added that since this was the centre’s first year compiling The Hunger Report, they don’t have numbers from previous years to compare to.
Silverthorn says the statistics found in the report only represent a small portion of the food insecurity happening at Ryerson, because many do not know about the service and others are ashamed to come in.
“It’s not something to be ashamed of. We’re all in school, we’ve all been through that situation where we’re like, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to pay rent next month,’ or ‘I can’t afford this textbook,’” said Silverthorn. “We’re all experiencing this together.”
The RSU and the Good Food Centre made the report to increase awareness about food insecurity among students, and to create a national dialogue encouraging other campuses to do similar research.