By Vivian Luong
The Ryerson Community Food Room is starving for donations and the fall food drive that ended last Friday did not satisfy the hunger.
“We didn’t get as much as we thought we would,” said Carole Dobson, assistant coordinator of the food room.
Fewer people donated this year, even though the food room passed out more food donation boxes. “What surprised me was that half of the boxes came back empty,” Dobson said.
Volunteers distributed a box to every department at Ryerson. Each box has a poster with a sad face and the words “Feed Me” on the front — but the “Feed Me” faces were ignored.
“The promotion of the department failed,” Dobson said. “We got the message across but perhaps at the next food drive we won’t put the responsibility on the departments.”
Ryerson’s food bank is not the only one that is facing a shortage in donations. The Daily Bread Food Bank, which provides the food room with donations every two weeks, is also experiencing a serious plummet in donations.
“At the loading docks, trucks coming back are half empty,” said Chris Slosser, manager of research and public services at the Daily Bread Food Bank.
Slosser said there is a 23 per cent decrease in food from last year. There wasn’t much to be thankful for on Thanksgiving weekend: foo donations decreased by 50 per cent.
In fact, the need for food in the Greater Toronto Area is on the rise after increasing about 15 per cent from 1995.
And people gazing at the bare shelves in Ryerson’s food room are noticing the crunch.
“There are not enough items. Last year there were plenty,” said one food room use, a third-year theatre student. “Right now, it’s empty and limited at the moment. I wonder why.”
Food is going fast and on a first come, first served basis. One person came in for milk but came out with only a few canned goods.
“All the fun stuff like chips and cereals go really fast,” Dobson said. “Only the beans were left over.”
The food room operates on an honour system, meaning anyone, from a student to a member of the community, can come in and help themselves to a maximum of 10 items per visit. The honour system also means that people are welcome to use it as long as they don’t abuse it.
“It’s very hard to judge,” Dobson said. “On the first visit, we never judge. But if you’re a student who comes in all the time and brings friends because there’s free stuff, then we’ll have a polite conversation with you.”
Ryerson has three food drives each year but not enough people are participating in them. Those who do drop off food usually come in with one to three items that they happened to find in their kitchen, Dobson said. “It’s something they don’t eat, so instead of throwing it out, they come here.”
“Unfortunately, we don’t have the benefits of the media to tell people that we’re not doing so well,” Dobson said, referring to the media coverage on the Daily Bread Food Bank. “I don’t think enough people know about us.”
She would like to use brighter posters made out of fine, shiny plastic instead of paper to promote the food drive. Also, the “Feed Me” boxes are old, unattractive and made of cardboard, she said. But the food room doesn’t have the money to buy more attractive boxes.
“There’s nothing more we can do, anything more will cost money,” Dobson said.
The food room depends on donations from students, other food banks, and the Nutrition department. Last week, the food drive collected $120 in total — about $100 came from a donation jar in the cafeteria.
Even with these donations, the food room doesn’t have the extra cash to spend on promoting its services. But that won’t stop them from trying.
“We are thinking of getting involved in Ryerson pub nights. Instead of paying an entrance fee, people can bring in a non-perishable item,” Dobson said. “We can increase awareness by simply being present.”