Local food bank deals with influx of international students

High numbers of international students at the food bank chalked up as misunderstanding

If students are having short-term financial difficulties, TRU World is available to help. (Wade Tomko/The Omega)

Last month, The Omega received a tip that in June the Kamloops Food Bank saw a major surge of international students trying to utilize their services. Though the food bank didn’t initially turn away these students, they warned the students that they wouldn’t be able to access their services in the future.

According to TRU’s executive communications officer, Darshan Lindsay, the food bank then contacted TRU to notify them of the situation and to come up with a solution.

“TRU World did end up sending some its staff, which would be their international student agents,” Lindsay said.

These international education agents, explained Lindsay, are staff of TRU World who play a role in recruitment, as well as supporting international students here on campus.

“They did go out and make some visits to the food bank, based on our understanding of when the students might be there and asked some questions to understand what the situations were,” Lindsay continued. “What they did find out was that there was a misunderstanding on the part of the students in terms of the services of the food bank and that it truly was for those were in need and the most vulnerable in our community.”

While it was no doubt an unfortunate situation for all involved, Lindsay noted that it shed some light, at least from the university’s perspective, on student needs.

“Obviously we want to know if students truly are in a need in terms of being able to access basics like food,” she said. “That was obviously a consideration for TRU World going in and just trying to find out what was going on, because international students coming to study in Canada are required, in terms of actually getting a study permit, they have to show the government of Canada that they have sufficient funds in place.”

Currently, the Canadian government requires all international students coming to study in Canada to prove they can cover not only tuition costs, but the cost of living here as well.

Though it isn’t always possible to make ends meet as a student, Lindsay said that this particular situation likely stemmed from short-term financial difficulties amongst new arrivals to TRU.

“My understanding was that this was from a new intake of students, so students that had just arrived this summer for the summer semester. So we hadn’t see this before,” Lindsay said. “It does seem like it was purely a case of misunderstanding, but certainly TRU World and the international student agents are here to support those students if they do have a need and that is for unexpected short-term financial difficulties.”

For their part, TRU World has since reached out to 30 of the students who were at the food bank earlier this summer. Though they prepared gift cards for grocery stores, there was no uptake from the students contacted.

“So certainly TRU World did have some resources in place including grocery gift cards, but my understanding is that none of the students actually accessed it,” Lindsay said. “This situation shouldn’t be arising and TRU is certainly available if there are unexpected financial difficulties. That would be on a short term basis.”

Lindsay added that TRU World also ran additional information sessions on accessing their financial resources, as well as the requirements of entering into Canada in terms of having sufficient funding.

Similar information sessions will run during orientation, including budgeting workshops for international students.

The Omega also tried to contact the Kamloops Food Bank for further information, though they refused to comment.