KPU Students Increasingly Rely on KSA Food Bank Amid Growing Food Insecurity in Canada

A report from Food Bank Canada says that the most frequent users of food banks include children and single adults

The typical KSA Food Bank packages contain a variety of non-perishable foods. Students can request food packages online. (Braden Klassen)

A report issued by Food Banks Canada says that usage of Canadian Food Banks across the country “remains unacceptably high.”

According to the report, which is titled HungerCount 2018, in one month alone Canadians made approximately 1.1 million visits to food banks, including over 125,000 in B.C.

The report states that 35.2 per cent of people who use food banks are children under the age of 18, and that 45.1 per cent of users are adults living in single-person households. In addition, food insecurity disproportionately affects Canadians living in Northern regions, and the report contains data from a 2014 Canadian Community Health Survey which revealed that 46.8 per cent of all households in Nunavut can not reliably access as much food as they need.

Member Services staff member Dani Blackett showing the KSA Food Bank storage locker in the Cedar Building office. (Braden Klassen)

In the conclusion of the report, its authors support national policy changes to address these issues. These include supporting efforts for creating affordable early learning and child-care facilities, increasing support programs for single adults earning a low income, and focusing on food insecurity in the North. It also advocates for the implementation of a national basic income program, which would give all Canadians the ability to collect income necessary to meet the rising cost of living in the country.

People aged 18 to 30 comprised 14.3 per cent of food bank users in all of B.C., though the largest demographic of users are aged 45 to 64, who make up 26.2 per cent. Both statistics are approximately two per cent higher in rural B.C.

The rising cost of living in Metro Vancouver means that students sometimes have to make the choice between paying their rent and tuition, or buying their food.

“You don’t need to hide from it; this is a reality,” says Murdoch de Mooy, VP University Affairs for the Kwantlen Student Association. De Mooy also helps to manage elements of the KSA Food Bank.

KSA Member Services staff Dani Blackett places a food bag into an anonymous locker for pickup by a student. (Braden Klassen)

Since 2011, the KSA Food Bank has provided students with packages of food which can be requested up to twice a month via an online form available on its website.

The package contains dried and canned goods like pasta, oatmeal, and tuna, and is mostly purchased by the student association in bulk from Costco. It is kept in a secure cabinet in the KSA office and is brought to anonymous lockers on the campuses every few days, which ensures confidentiality for students using the food bank.

According to de Mooy, students have been using the program more and more over the past few years, with a noticeable jump taking place during the 2018 fall semester.

“It was really scary. We couldn’t keep up the food demand, we couldn’t keep up with the locker demand,” says Dani Blackett, who works with KSA Member Services and organizes and delivers the food packages. “Today, I sent the first email that I’ve sent in a long time that said that the queue is cleared.”

Blackett says that, during the busiest times, the KSA offers students the choice to retrieve the bags from the Member Services desk in Cedar to speed up the process. However, students would often refuse because they didn’t want to be seen using the food bank.

“Even when I needed it, I didn’t really want to ask for help,” says de Mooy, who has used food bank services in the past. “It took me a long time to realize that people want to help. It makes them feel good, but they want to make sure you’re not left behind. I think students need to know that, when they need help, they just need to say it.”