A variety of produce in a pile, including peppers, corn, apples and tomatoes.
The Community Food Room provides students with produce and other groceries. PHOTO: Angela Hennessy

Food for all

In Communities /

By Tamara Sestanj

On average, students spend $60 per week on groceries. But what many Ryerson students don’t know is that instead of spending, they could be saving more than

$30 per week by using the Community Food Room.

The food room, located on the second floor of the student centre, is a service provided to Ryerson students free of charge. It recognizes the pressures students are under with tuition and living expenses and aims to lessen their financial burdens. Any student can come to the room weekly to receive free groceries.

“Students are struggling, they have tuition fees and they’re working two or three jobs and more and more students are living away from home,” said Rajean Hoilett, Ryerson Students’ Union vice-president equity. “[There’s] a new substantial need.”

Of the 40,000 students at Ryerson, less than two per cent use this service. Despite this fact, Hoilett said that the food room has seen an increase in its number of users.

Drew Silverthorn, a second-year social work student, said he didn’t know the service existed until a friend told him about it. Now, he uses the food room frequently.

“It’s really helpful with offsetting the different costs that come with university,” said Silverthorn. “Food is such an easy thing to scratch off your list, so it’s helped me with that.”

The food room is primarily funded through donations. The shelves are stocked with fresh fruit and veggies, canned goods, chocolate, granola bars and personal hygiene products. Depending on the week, they also have meats and dairy products.

Students who use the service are asked to present their OneCards and fill out a form. It works on an honour system – no financial information needs to be provided.

“We just trust that because you made the trip, you need the food room,” said Hoilett.

The service operates using points. An average student receives 10 points per week and can redeem them for groceries. No item exceeds the cost of one point.

The food room has outreach programs to let students know about these services. Some students are afraid to ask for help, even if they need it. So the programs aim to remove the negative stigma surrounding these services.

“There is a stigma attached to people who use food rooms,” said Hoilett. “[We educate students] about why we need a food room and what needs to be done so that people can access food.”

Even Ryerson students who don’t use the service are encouraged to get involved by donating food or volunteering.

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