Why Food Banks Need Your Money

April 5, 2017  |   Found in Editorial // SU Campus Food Bank

Food insecurity on university campuses is a growing concern in Canada. A recent study conducted by Meal Exchange Canada, “Hungry for Knowledge,” found that at more troubled campuses, up to 46% of undergraduate students have experienced some degree of food insecurity. Their access to food is either unavailable, inaccessible, inadequate, or unacceptable for their cultural or nutritional standards.

Luckily, food insecurity at the U of C is at the lowest rate of the seven Canadian universities included in the study, with only 30% of campus respondents reporting they experienced food insecurity. Relatively speaking, food insecurity at the U of C is a much more manageable issue than it is elsewhere in Canadian universities.

The U of C’s ability to mitigate more food insecurity than similar institutions across Canada can be credited to the SU Campus Food Bank (CFB) – and that’s not just my opinion! According to the same study, the typical problems of campus food banks, such as low nutritional quality and restricted access, don’t apply to Alberta campus food banks. That’s definitely something for our campus community to be proud of, since the CFB depends on your generous donations year-round.

However, this doesn’t mean there is no room for improvement. Regardless of where our campus stands on a national level, food insecurity is still an issue that needs to be tackled strategically. Student use of the CFB has doubled over the past two years and they reported a $30,000 shortfall in donations last year. That means the CFB needs your help now more than ever.

How can you help the CFB?

The best way to help the CFB tackle campus food insecurity is in cash. Yes, it’s true – a little cash is more helpful than bringing in the 10 cans of creamed corn you have laying around. Here’s why:

More Bang for Your Buck

Non-profits like the CFB can stretch your dollar donation much farther than you can on your own. Food banks can pool donations, and have discount rates they can use when buying product in bulk. By contributing to this funding pool, your donation generates a much higher return for the community. For example, the Calgary Food Bank has promised that your $1 donation can be stretched to a $5 value. You can keep the can of green beans and donate even half the amount of money it costs, and you’d still be making a much greater impact on food insecurity.

Logistics

Canned donations can become a logistical nightmare for a non-profit organization. If you’re feeling particularly generous and decide to bring in the dozens of assorted canned goods you’ve been wanting to get rid of, it’s the CFB staff who would be responsible for sorting and storing it all. Plus, during busy seasons like the holidays where everyone seems to bring in canned donations, the CFB usually runs out of storage room and space isn’t freed up for several months.

Monetary donations allow the CFB to make sure it stays stocked with a good variety of food items, allowing CFB users to access meals that are more than just a random assortment of non-perishable items. This also means that the problem of trying to find space for dozens of boxes of Kraft Dinner can be avoided, since the cash would allow the CFB staff to tailor supplies to the actual needs of CFB users.

Its also worth noting that most non-profits need cash donations to stay open – salaries and utility bills need to get paid, and that isn’t possible if the non-profit is only receiving non-perishable goods. Luckily, at the SU CFB, all cash donations go to providing emergency food hampers that are well rounded with perishable items and other goods that are not regularly donated. So, logistically, monetary donations to the CFB make a direct impact on tackling food insecurity, because your money is guaranteed to be used for enhancing food supply.

Nutrition

Food insecurity is more than just feeling hungry. Food security involves frequent access to food that is both filling and nutritionally acceptable. This means that the CFB can only do its job if it is meeting the nutritional needs of its clients. Non-perishable food donations can sometimes meet the nutritional standards of the CFB if they are high in protein or low in sodium/syrup, but nothing beats the fresh produce the CFB can buy with your cash donations. Fresh produce allows CFB users to cook their own preferred meals where possible, in more nutritionally wholesome ways than they would achieve through a diet of only non-perishables. Currently, a significant amount of the food that goes into the CFB’s emergency food hampers is perishable, and the only way this nutritional standard can be maintained is through monetary donations.

Trust me – I totally understand that donating those 10 cans of tuna feels like a more significant contribution than a $10-dollar bill. And its not like the CFB will ever turn you and your box of cans away! But if you want to help mitigate campus food insecurity as badly as the CFB does, in the most efficient and impactful way possible, cash donations are the way to go.


Jessica is a second year Secondary Education/History student with a passion for crime shows and Kalamata olives. She used to enjoy a good book until university made her feel guilty for not reading something course related.