RSU Food Box campaign to address food insecurity among students

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By Yasmine Elkhouly

The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) launched a campaign to support students facing food insecurity and offered its third round of food box distribution in the first week of February, according to the students’ union. 

The RSU Food Box campaign allows Ryerson students to use a mobile app and receive a biweekly credit for grocery shopping. Students are offered $25 for pick-up orders and delivery.

Vice-president equity Vaishali Vinayak said this was the “best way” to ensure students facing food insecurity receive support while the Good Food Centre isn’t operating due to the pandemic. 

Last May, the RSU temporarily laid off the Good Food Centre coordinator alongside four former full-time staff members. The five staff members were officially laid off in November

In an email to The Eyeopener, RSU president Ali Yousaf explained that layoffs were due to low enrolment numbers and the lack of work, but the Board of Governors June meeting confirmed that student enrolment remained relatively the same for the 2020-21 year. 

According to Statistics Canada, one in seven Canadians were estimated to live in a food-insecure household last May. The study found that Canadians experiencing food insecurity were nearly three times as likely to perceive their mental health as fair or poor. 

“Our primary focus is to support the students who are in desperate need of financial support,” said Vinayak. She said each application is reviewed carefully to determine who is eligible. 

“As this project is in its initial phase, for the first two rounds only 100 students were eligible as we wanted to make sure everything goes smoothly,” she said.

The initiative expanded to support 350 students in the third round for $25 each, with free delivery. The project is set to continue running until the end of April and will be offered to all full-time undergraduate and graduate students at Ryerson who are facing food insecurity, according to Vinayak. 

“Due to the overwhelming response we received, we increased the number of RSU food box deliveries,” she said. 

Round three of the RSU food box applications ended on Jan. 29, shortly after the second round on Jan. 15. As the initiative continues, Vinayak said that the hope is to keep expanding the number of students that can benefit from the program. 

“Food insecurity can be a major issue among college students”

Third-year occupational health and safety student Sabrina Leung said it took around two weeks for her application to be processed and she was impressed by the selection of available groceries. 

“There was everything available that I could think of, they even had halal meat and plant-based options,” she said. 

Leung recommended that students in need apply and check their email regularly, as the approval email she received said her credits would expire the next day.

Groceries are ordered through expresscart, a local shopping and delivery app provided by Gocart.city. Leung said that the mobile app was user friendly. 

Second-year Ryerson aerospace engineering student Sheikh Abid Rahmen said the application process was easy—he only had to fill out a Google form with his name, contact information and an explanation as to how the food box could help him. 

“When I got the credit, they emailed me detailed information on how to access the credit. I don’t think anything could be done to make the process easier,” said Rahmen. 

Rahmen has used the RSU Food Box twice now and said it was especially helpful on his first time using it since he was in mandatory isolation after visiting home. He plans to apply again if another round is made available. 

“I would definitely recommend other students to apply,” said Rahmen. “Food insecurity can be a major issue among college students and initiatives like this can help out a lot.” 

Correction: A previous version of this story stated that the RSU Food Box would be available until the end of September, when it is actually only available until the end of April. The Eye regrets this error.

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