The London Food Bank reported a higher number of post-secondary students are accessing food services compared to previous years.
“Right now, the percentage of families that we’re seeing that have some kind of post-secondary student in them is about 9 per cent of the families we’re helping,” said Mary-Ann McDowell, the operations coordinator at the London Food Bank. “It was about 6 to 7 per cent [in 2015].”
The London Food Bank currently helps nearly 3,500 households per month. Of these households, approximately 310 are either post-secondary students or families that have post-secondary students in them.
"We ask that people show identification for each member of their household," McDowell said. "If they have a certain income, we ask to see an income statement. But usually, with university students, they don’t have a source of income other than OSAP."
More students have also been visiting the food bank during its special Saturday hours. On Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., the food bank is exclusively open to university and college students.
“I would say we’re seeing somewhere between 10 and 14 students a week,” said McDowell. “It is certainly higher on Saturday mornings than previous years.”
McDowell believes that more students require access to food services due to the rising costs of food. In 2016, a study across five Canadian universities showed food costs as the strongest contributing factor to food insecurity among university students.
Canadian food prices increased by 1.4 per cent between September 2016 and September 2017 and they are expected to further increase by 1 to 3 per cent in 2018, according to Canada’s Food Price Report. The costs of restaurant food and vegetables, in particular, are expected to rise the most by 4 to 6 per cent.
Despite this, Western University’s Food Support Services remains underused and receives only 150 to 250 requests for food annually. In November, FSS reported food items were expiring before they could be used. The FSS coordinator, Pearl Wang, said one issue is that many students currently don't know about the service.
Research shows around 39 per cent of Canadian university students experience food insecurity.