The old cliché of the starving student is anything but passé at the University of Victoria, where the number of registered users has doubled at the UVic Student Society Food Bank since 2010.
The food bank, which recorded 3,750 visits from UVic students in 2014, was paid a visit Wednesday by local MLA Rob Fleming, who was UVSS chair in 1998. Fleming dropped off a load of food to the food bank’s smallish quarters below the Student Union Building on Wednesday (Jan. 7) afternoon.
“When I was at UVic, the food bank was in its infancy. It wasn’t much more than a shelf,” Fleming said. “It was a few students registering their hardships and that was all, nothing like the organized system they’re using now.”
UVSS chair Kayleigh Erickson said the food bank’s rapid increase in demand is the result of growing financial strains on undergrad and graduate students.
“There are no needs-based grant programs for students in B.C., the only province without it, and we have the highest student interest loan of any province,” Robertson said.
“Add to that the university is considering raising student resident fees up to 13 per cent for next year.”
With that in mind, Fleming has makes a point each January of bringing in a load of food collected during a local NDP holiday gathering. This is the fifth year Fleming has helped out.
The food bank is keeping up for now with two weekly deliveries from Thrifty Foods and a weekly budget around $1,500. Items in high demand are typical for Victoria, says co-ordinator Sam Scott.
“Fresh fruit and veggies, eggs, almond or rice milk and gluten free options are hot items,” he said.
Delivery day sees $1,000 worth of food run in and out within seven hours of operation.
Most food comes from Thriftys but Scott is now ordering from wholesale distributor Gordon Food Services and also receives veggies and fruit in the Good Food Box through the Fernwood Neighbourhood Resource Group.
“We have a lot of programs on campus, such as Stocktober, which brought in 1,000 pounds of food, but no matter how much we get, it all goes out,” said food bank assistant Jasmine Robertson.
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