by André Voshart
Thanksgiving has come and gone, but Ryerson’s Community Food Room still needs help.
The Community Food Room is a Ryerson Students’ Union initiative that offers food and resources for students, faculty, staff and community members in need.
The food room kicked off their Fall Food Drive Oct. 4, appealing to the Ryerson community for non-perishable food donations. The campaign is set to run until Oct. 14, but food room outreach co-ordinator Jerome Nguyen said they may extend that by one week, because they have yielded fewer donations than expected.
“Things are a bit slow,” Nguyen said. “After our first week, we collected about a third of what we received last year for the full two weeks.”
The food room helps feed over 150 people each month, 40 of them are Ryerson students, while the rest are people who live in Ryerson’s neighbourhood. Recently, an increase in demand has forced the food room to cap the number of non-Ryerson clients, to make sure there is enough food for Ryerson students who rely on their services.
And this number is growing. In September, the food room added 15 students to their registry.
The recent cancellation of the tuition freeze, combined with the high cost of living in downtown Toronto could mean there’s trouble ahead for students.
“The food room has always believed students shouldn’t have to choose between books and food,” Nguyen said.
According to HungerCount 2004, a report released by the Canadian Association of Food Banks, students make up 5.6 per cent of food bank nationwide. In Ontario, students account for 8.1 per cent of food bank clients.
“The (food room) co-ordinators and volunteers are students, too, so we know and experience the financial burdens of paying for tuition, books and rent,” Nugyen said.
Until last spring, the food room was located in the bowels of Jorgenson Hall. It has since moved to the second floor of the new Student Campus Centre. The move means the food room is closer to other student groups, allowing for more cross-promotion, like offering students a discount on admission to campus events when they bring a food donation for the food room.
Some faculty members have responded to the fall food drive and are using creative tactics to encourage their students to bring in donations. Business management instructor Mike Inglis came up with a challenge for his students: If they raised $350 for the food room, he would wear a dress to class.
But Inglis kept his pants on, as the students were $100 short of the the target.
Sue Cox is the executive director of the Daily Bread Food Bank, a city-wide organization that aims to feed hungry people in the GTA. She said people will donate when they know how to do it and it is made convenient.
“Students, if they are able, can respond easily,” said Cox.
Ryerson’s Community Food Room is one of Daily Bread’s member agencies and receives food from them regularly. As such, Nguyen said he was not surprised that food room donations are down this year, as Daily Bread’s donations are also slumping.
“The Daily Bread has seen a 20 per cent decrease in donations,” Nguyen said. “So it wouldn’t be surprising if we received less too.”
Donations can be dropped off at the Community Food Room, SCC 212, or in marked donation boxes across campus.