Demand for the Food Cupboard’s services is up 30 per cent compared to the same time last year, with much of that coming from international students, data from the Students’ Association shows.
As of Nov. 15, 146 students have accessed the Food Cupboard so far in the month. This compares to 88 at the same time last year, and 72 in 2016.
Those numbers are also reflected in what Jessica Clark, Food Cupboard coordinator for the Students’ Association, is seeing.
“On average it could be five to 10 a day; on other days it could only be three,” Clark said of the student traffic. “It changes day by day but roughly every month it seems to be increasing.”
The Food Cupboard is a service offered to any student in financial crisis. They can come in once a month when needed and get a two to three day supply of basic necessities ranging from soup, toilet paper, cereal, flour or even diapers.
International students are the primary users, according to annual reports supplied by the Food Cupboard, from 2016-2017 and 2017-2018. They have higher fees and more costs than domestic students.
The secondary reason for the growth may be higher rent and bills for students.
“I find over the years the amount of usage of the Food Cupboard continues to get higher and more and more students are using the service,” said front line service associate and former Food Cupboard coordinator Skye Sullivan, adding it’s unknown whether the increase is a result of more awareness or growing need.
The approaching holiday season may be a factor as well.
“There’s definitely a peak, so usually around the Christmas season and around March it tends to be the pattern of the higher traffic,” Clark said. “It’s harder to compare though last year with the strike because the numbers were very different than they were.”
According to the Algonquin College Students’ Association Food Cupboard Report Ottawa Campus, from September 2016 to August 2017, The Food Cupboard served and filled food order for a total of 730 students in need. When factoring in students who also required food for their dependents there was a total of 983 people fed through the Food Cupboard.
The graphs below illustrate what the students’ status is and how many accessed the Food Cupboard.
From September 2017 to August 2018, The Food Cupboard served and filled food orders for a total of 919 students in need. The Food Cupboard saw an increase of 189 students from the previous academic year of 2016 – 2017.
When factoring in students who also required food for their dependents, there was a total of 1,442 people fed through the Food Cupboard over the year. This also increased from the previous year by 459 people.
The graphs below show what the students’ reasons are and how many had used the services.
From 2016-2017, 154 international students used the Food Cupboard listing that as their primary reason for their visit and 147 students listed high rent and bills as their primary reason to visit.
In 2017-2018 there was a higher number of students who accessed the service. One-hundred and ninety international students used it, citing higher costs and more expenses as their primary reason. Some 164 students listed high rent and bills as their primary reason to visit.
“High rent and bills can apply to any student really,” Sullivan said. “But let’s say it’s an international student using the service. Not only are they going to have high rent and bills while they’re here but they’ll also have higher fees than what domestic students have.”
Some students may only need to use the Food Cupboard once whereas some others need to use it on a monthly basis.
“The ideal would be that students didn’t have to use the food bank but we are here to provide it because we do recognize that there are financial concerns,” she said. “But as of right now we see with the amount the Food Cupboard is being used students are experiencing that.”
Sullivan explained that four years ago the SA’s Board of Directors listened to students to see what their needs were and what students wanted to see happen on campus.
“The Food Cupboard was a part of an initiative that the Board of Directors had gotten started and then the Students’ Association had implemented,” she said. “With any new service, it takes time in order to educate people of the service, and let people know what the service is, how they can access it, who the service is here to help and all of that.”
Over time the Students’ Association has done a lot of advertising, food drives and has gotten the whole college community involved in supporting the Food Cupboard so students know about it. But unlike the food banks in Ottawa, the Food Cupboard is independent and operates fully off of donations and funds from the SA.
The Food Cupboard was opened in December of 2014, but because most students were leaving for Christmas break they started up again with a grand opening in March 2015.
Newly located in C033, the Food Cupboard accepts donations Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
There is also a donation bin in the Students’ Association office where any student or staff member can donate items from food to diapers.