As any student will know, finding cheap food or groceries while living off-campus can prove difficult. There are limited options downtown, and anything remotely healthy or balanced in grocery stores is steadily increasing in price. Investing in sustenance through quality produce can mean spending large amounts of a limited income, if you have any such income, or even foregoing meals to pay for other living expenses, including rent.
The extent of this issue is evident across the country. Simon Fraser University, for instance, introduced emergency voucher systems in 2015. Other universities like the University of British Columbia and U of T have student-run food banks. These services are widely used by those unable to afford groceries, especially students with families.
The University of Toronto Students’ Union’s online grocery pilot project with FoodReach brings hope of affordable and quality produce to students who find themselves under financial strain or otherwise unable to keep up with rising food prices. The FoodReach partnership seems promising: this non-profit can provide healthy produce, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, that students may normally forego in favour of cheaper options such as frozen pizzas and instant noodles. FoodReach’s spending model of buying in bulk and distributing across small groups aims to alleviate costs and increase access to good food.
This program can also serve as a model for universities across the country. It serves as a better alternative to the programs in BC mentioned previously because the stigma attached to asking for food vouchers or products from a food bank means students might be less willing to use those services. Without this concern, such a service would likely be more widely accepted and used by the students who need it.
The introduction of the FoodReach system means students will have access to quality groceries, and it acknowledges the university’s responsibility to provide resources that help students flourish.
Maria Pepelassis is a second-year student at Trinity College studying History.