Are difficult times making it hard to fix your next meal? Hungry students can find help at the Food Centre, NAIT’s first official food bank.
Over the past five years, NAIT students only had access to an informal give-take box. This year, NAIT Students’ Association food centre head Matthew Pecore and NAITSA president Justin Nand are working together to support a volunteer initiative to help students get access to the resources they need.
“You’re here to receive a good education. Good food gets you a good education,” said Pecore. Last academic year, NAITSA surveyed students and received suggestions that there is a need to support more students in their access to food. Just over 200 NAIT students were found to be using or needing assistance with food sources.
Other studies have shown that students within post-secondary institutions have become increasingly reliant on food banks, a possible reflection of the rise in cost of living and tuition.
“A serious problem to consider when students are paying rent, tuition and bills – they can always cut down eating,” said Nand.
Many other Edmonton post-secondary institutions have started their own food banks to help their students, including MacEwan University, Norquest College and University of Alberta. “There is a huge usage of the Food Centre early on [in the semester]” said Pecore.
The amount of students becoming reliant on food banks is only expected to increase now that there is somewhere for them to go within the NAIT campus.
Any student with a valid NAIT ID can apply for these services either by going to NAITSA’s Service Centre and filling out a form for a Food Centre hamper or apply online through NAITSA’s website. Students can apply for food hampers up to twice a month. “Service can be found within 24 to 48 hours” said Pecore. Another problem NAITSA is trying to overcome is the stigma of going to a food bank. “Nobody wants to go to a food bank, so we are opening a Food Centre,” said Pecore, hoping that students in need will be more comfortable with the new name.
Students studying at satellite campuses face additional problems. At the moment, students needing food supplies must come to NAIT’s main campus. The Food Centre is looking at options such as providing food lockers for students to pick up food hampers. At this time, students are still required to come to the main campus. As commonly found with other food banks, the Food Centre has difficulty raising food donations and funds. Storage can also be a problem because the Food Centre cannot keep perishables.
To get help or donate, contact the Food Centre at naitsa.ca/food-centre/ or call at 780-491-3966. “I want to encourage a culture where those who need receive and those who have give,” said Nand. As the website emphasizes, “hunger should not be a barrier to your education.” Dropping off even the smallest donations can help with establishing the Food Centre’s supplies, in turn feeding the students who need it most. Donations such as canned goods and grain products are welcome.
The Food Centre asks donations to be within their expiry date and have pop top openers for canned goods if possible to help the food products become more accessible to students who may or may not have can openers. “It’s a work in progress but it’s getting better,” said Nand. The largest obstacle the Food Centre currently faces is they don’t receive many donations and NAITSA encourages students to share the news by posting on social media. “The last thing I want is for students to worry about dinner” said Nand.