The 2022 University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) food drive started on November 15 and is scheduled to wrap up on November 30. All proceeds from the food drive will go into the UTSU’s food bank located in the Student Commons.
The UTSU’s Food Bank has operated since 2001 and aims to address food insecurity on campus by providing free food to all students year long.
Student food insecurity
Recently, Food Banks Canada published their Hunger Count 2022 report, which collects statistics from food banks across the country.
In March 2022, Ontario food banks received almost 500,000 visits, just under 148,000 of which came from children. Single adult households made up about 45.4 per cent of visits. As March is generally an “unexceptional” of food bank usage, these data suggest that food banks in Ontario have received roughly 5,800,000 visits in 2022.
The UTSU currently has 140 students registered for their food bank services, which is an increase of 100 per cent from 2021. “The number of students using our services has substantially increased over the past year as the cost of living and food prices have risen,” Konrad Samsel, chief executive assistant to the UTSU’s Executive Committee, wrote in an email to The Varsity.
To accommodate the increased demand, the UTSU now offers food bank service every Friday at the book bank in the Student Commons. “We currently service approximately 50-60 students weekly, compared to 40-45 students bi-weekly in the prior year,” he wrote.
Previous food drives
Samsel confirmed that the UTSU has conducted an annual food drive for 13 years. Over this time, the UTSU has partnered with different organizations including the Housing and Family Care Offices and the Varsity Blues.
Samsel explained that, during the height of the pandemic, the UTSU held virtual food and toy drives, which raised close to the UTSU’s goal of $2,500.
“[This] year we are short of this goal and need the support of the community,” he wrote.
For the 2022 food drive, the UTSU encourages students to get involved through two methods. First, individuals or student groups can donate non-perishable food items, unwrapped new toys, or gift cards by visiting the Student Commons, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday.
Community members can also make monetary donations online. Samsel confirmed that all of these donations will be matched by the UTSU up to their goal of $2,500.
Samsel wrote that the UTSU recently launched a food rescue program in partnership with UofT Food Services and MealCare. Students experiencing food insecurity can pick up frozen meals at the UTSU food bank on a weekly basis.
The UTSU is also currently renovating a kitchen at the Student Commons and plans to offer more food-centered student programming beginning in fall 2023 once renovations are finished.
Students who are interested in getting involved with the UTSU’s food bank are encouraged to apply before December 2.