Students benefit from free produce during tough times

SA and Quality Produce distribute food to help the community with mental health and financial hardships
Photo: Emmet Paradis
Starr Brommell (left), a business marketing student, Wilma Overbeek (middle) and Matteo Mongroo (right) giving food to the community.

As workers distributed free produce in the Student Commons, Marina Walsworth, a fourth-level graphic design student, collected her assortment of strawberries, bananas, oranges and various vegetables while expressing heartfelt gratitude.

“It brought people together,” said Walsworth. “Everybody is kind of struggling right now, I never would have dreamed of this being possible.”

The free farmers market was hosted by the Students’ Association and Quality Produce in the E-building on April 3.

“Groceries are really expensive right now,” said Summar Bourada, the marketing manager of the SA. “There’s a lot going on and it’s just kind of a way to show our appreciation and encourage healthy eating, healthy lifestyle. And make sure everybody eats food securely.”

Bourada said the market was an opportunity for the SA to give back to the students in need.

According to Statistics Canada, nearly one in five Canadians report some kind of food insecurity.

“As the equity, diversity and inclusion coordinator for the SA, I am all about hosting fun events that make everyone feel supported, and this event did that,” said Tatanisha Riggan. “As we approach final assessment week, we understand that many students can benefit from healthy fruits and vegetables to support them.”

The SA heard of Quality Produce through an affordable produce market which took place three times within the last few months at Conestoga College in Kitchener.

According to the owner of Quality Produce, Joshua Overbeek, international students are struggling with four main issues: fresh food, affordable food, jobs and housing.

“I can’t help with housing, but with fresh and affordable foods and with jobs, absolutely,” said Overbeek.

Quality Produce has been creating programs that give jobs to people who are struggling by using their help to acquire and give away free food.

Briet Savard Gudjonsdottir, a fourth-level graphic design student, said she doesn’t believe most students usually eat fruits and vegetables. She said this is due to the rising costs of produce and the unhealthy eating habits students often adopt.

Overbeek emphasized the importance of fresh produce because of its impact on mental health and overall spirit.

“It can really impact the way you think. Good food is really important to that,” he said.

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