Report says two in five students unable to access quality food

Food insecurity is disproportionate amongst ethnic minorities, students needing government financial aid

A recently published report suggests that almost 40 per cent of Canadian students do not have reliable access to nutritionally sufficient food or, in some cases, enough food at all. (Salvation Army USA West/Flickr CC)

A recently published report suggests that almost 40 per cent of Canadian students do not have reliable access to nutritionally sufficient food or, in some cases, enough food at all. (Salvation Army USA West/Flickr CC)

Forty per cent of Canadian students are unable to access enough food or nutrition, according to a recently published study on food insecurity among students at five Canadian universities.

The study, which was conducted by Meal Exchange, a charity that works to eradicate hunger in local communities, suggests that almost 40 per cent of Canadian students are food insecure. Five Canadian campuses and 4,500 students took part in the study.

The report concludes that “Canadian financial support for post-secondary students is inadequate for the maintenance of food security during university.” It also cites a lack of food literacy, the on-campus and off-campus food environments available and lack of time as barriers to food access.

The report defines being food secure in not just having sufficient food to eat, but also having access to food that it is nutritious and meets dietary needs.

TRU’s wellness coordinator Meaghan Hagerty is not shocked by the findings, and said that it’s more than just having enough food to eat. Hagerty believes that one factor that would increase food security is education and making sure that students know how to prepare nutritionally wholesome meals.

Another way the report determined food insecurity was analyzing how many students spend money on low-cost foods. However, Hagerty said that low-cost foods are not necessarily bad and that it depends on what students buy.

“If students are living off noodle soup and Kraft Dinner as low-cost options, that is definitely worrisome to health. If they are seeking out things like discounted fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, I think that’s a great thing,” Hagerty said in an email.

The report also outlined that food insecurity is more prevalent in different groups. Indigenous students and other students of non-European ethnic backgrounds were more likely to be reported as food insecure. A difference in food security was also seen in students who had student loans.

TRUSU’s vice-president external Amber Storvold said that it is “unfortunate that there is still a need” for nutritious food access for students.

Storvold also mentioned that TRUSU’s food bank is openly available and accepts donations from both students and the wider community.

Meal Exchange’s findings also bring to light a lack of research done into Canadian students’ food security, asserting that other developed countries such as Australia and the United States have much more research in their students’ security than Canada does.

According to Statistics Canada’s consumer price index, the average price of food has increased by 40.5 per cent since 2002.