Campus food banks see rising usage, groups call for political action

TORONTO, Sept. 15, 2015 /CNW/ - Of the millions of students who just started school, many will be forced to use the food bank on their campus in order to survive. Since many campus food banks are running out of food for the growing numbers using them, more and more students have recognized the need for political action.

"Since I started at the food bank, 35% more students are accessing the service," says Drew Silverthorn, a campus food bank coordinator in downtown Toronto. "Rather than having more food drives or fundraising, we are recognizing that we'll never meet the need until we deal with the underlying issues that are driving people into poverty."

In January, Silverthorn published Canada's first Campus Hunger Report, which demonstrates that tuition fees and unemployment are linked to higher food bank usage. This past summer, Silverthorn was hired at Meal Exchange, a national non-profit, to support the creation of Campus Hunger Reports on other campuses.

"I often hear about the struggles of students to get an education but the general public isn't aware of this issues," says Michael Waglay, Program Coordinator at Meal Exchange. "We need to raise awareness through Campus Hunger Reports and engage students to take a host of actions including voting."

For the federal election, Meal Exchange is working with Food Secure Canada's Youth Caucus to support students to host Eat Think Vote events. These events invite all candidates to discuss over a meal the food issues facing students and young people. With dozens of events already registered, hundreds of candidates will be engaged and asked to show how their party will tackle food insecurity among students.

"The main demand of the Youth Caucus is for the federal government to increase support for post-secondary education under the Canada Social Transfer," says Sasha McNicoll, Chairperson for Food Secure Canada's Youth Caucus. "This will go a long way toward making education affordable and ensuring all students have access to healthy food."

"I am optimistic that change will come on election day," says McNicoll. "We also know that no matter who wins the election, youth will need to put pressure on the new government to provide more support."

For Silverthorn, the issues that students going to Ryerson's food bank face are his own: "I have two jobs, $40,000 debt, and a tough job market waiting for me when I graduate at the end of the year. In a country as rich as Canada, no one should have to wonder where their next meal will come from."

SOURCE Meal Exchange

For further information: Michael Waglay, Program Coordinator, Meal Exchange, 416.879.4923 (cell), michael@mealexchange.com; Sasha McNicoll, Chairperson, Food Secure Canada Youth Caucus, 647-770-8388. (cell), fscyouthcaucus@gmail.com

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