Food security is an issue for students

Donations for Edmonton’s Food Bank are needed year-round

By this point in the year, many kindergarten to Grade 12 and post-secondary students have just gone back to school. It’s exciting to start a new year, but it can also be challenging. Knowing that the basics aren’t being covered at home can be a huge extra worry.

NAIT students have support with NAITSA (NAIT Students’ Association) Food Centre. Valentyna Burakovska, the Food Centre coordinator, says students can apply for two hampers a month. These hampers include three to five day’s worth of non-perishable items.

Most of these students attend NAIT full time. “They’re living by themselves, they have all these extra expenses and responsibilities. The Food Centre is something every student can use.” 

NAIT students can sign up by visiting naitsa.ca/service-hub/food-centre/.

Nancy Petersen, Edmonton Public Schools director of strategic supports, explains many schools have formal or informal food programs. 

“Many of our school’s students can access a breakfast or lunch,” Petersen says. “The school’s principals are the front line in determining the need.”

Resources accessed depend on the school. Some schools access e4C or Food for Thought, while others apply for grants to national programs like Breakfast Club of Canada.

“Staff notice a big difference when nutritional food is available,” says Peterson, noting that food helps with thinking and problem solving.

A huge resource for anyone to access is Edmonton’s Food Bank.

“Every month, we provide [food for] 20,000 to 22,000 people through the hamper program, not including the people accessing food for schools or shelters. We distribute between 350,000 to 500,000 meals and snacks to schools, both public and separate,” says Marjorie Bencz, executive director of Edmonton’s Food Bank. 

As an organization that depends on donations and volunteers, the Food Bank is always looking for support from the public.

“Our need is year-round, but it’s hard to do appeals to the public all year round. The good months are when people get extra money through their GST refund. Our [client] numbers go down,” says Bencz. Higher levels of unemployment also reflect higher Food Bank use. 

If you are able to help, certain items are more in demand. Aside from the usual nonperishable staples (pasta, canned soup, baby formula), good protein sources are the most needed.

“We never get enough canned meat, like tuna,” Bencz says, noting that the Food Bank often makes up the shortfall by buying peanut butter. Cash donations are also most welcome for such purchases.

“We do our work can by can, dollar by dollar.”

The Food Bank also provides food depots at more than 60 community organizations like the Salvation Army, churches, Boyle Street Community Services, and the Bissell Centre. The Food Bank also has a holistic view of the issues that might bring people through their doors.

“The services with the Food Bank are broader than people think—soup kitchens organize through the Food Bank, and at our Annex, we have a program called Beyond Food, where you can train to get your safety ticket, help with resume writing, job searches.”

The issue of food insecurity is a symptom of the larger issue of poverty. According to a survey, 70 per cent of Food Bank recipients have a household income of $25,000 or less. Bencz knows that Edmonton’s Food Bank has a limited mandate, and that not having enough to eat is just one part of the larger root cause affecting all aspects of life. Poverty means fewer resources in general, which means everything is harder, including finding a home, getting an education, and getting a better-paying job.

“I think structurally, we need to look at income, what people can live on, and housing. It really affects people, their health and well-being.”

To get help, call 780.425.4190. Eligible clients can also order hampers online at edmontonsfoodbank.com, where you can also find a list of other resources, like free community meals, recipes, and locations of discount groceries, community gardens, collective kitchens, and bread runs. The Annex building is located at 11434 120 St.


Featured Image: Edmonton’s Food Bank supplies food and snacks to schools. | Supplied

Mari Sasano

Mari is a writer and civil servant.

Latest posts by Mari Sasano (see all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *