The Humber Students’ Federation Emergency Food Bank has added a new policy allowing students to receive bi-weekly gift cards at its front desk.
“The service staff only identify students by their client number, and not by their personal information,” said Candace Pellew, the vice-president of Student Affairs at Lakeshore campus.
Pellew noted the food bank hands eligible students gift cards, supplying them with food for 90 days.
She and Odin von Doom, vice president of Student Affairs at Humber North campus, review the applications to determine who qualifies for assistance. Applicants must meet with either Pellew or Von Doom for a food bank interview to determine their eligibility.
“The HSF provides a food bank service that is universal to our students, from Humber North, Lakeshore, and Orangeville, all our students have to go online,” Pellew said. “We do it in a very discreet way, where their privacy and their personal information is confidential.”
Amanda Finley King of the Ontario Association of Food Banks said that she thinks the emergency food bank is doing a great job helping people make ends meet.
The OAFB’s Annual Hunger Report in 2014 showed four per cent of post-secondary students across Ontario visit food banks every month.
“I know it sounds like a small number, but that’s approximately over 18,000 students in Ontario accessing food banks,” King said.
She said the OAFB uses the annual report as a tool to lobby government officials in Queen’s Park and Ottawa, and hopes they will review and increase social assistance payments to cover the growing cost of food and rent in Ontario.
Melissa Theodore, vice president of Equity at the University of Toronto’s student union in Mississauga, said gift cards are an impersonal method.
“I think if you just hand out a gift card, it does not build community,” she said.
But Pellew disagreed with this assessment
“Our students pay their student activity fees, [then] we have a specific budget that we can allocate to that service,” she said.
Pellew said while all students are in need, the emergency food bank is only equipped to assist students who need to take time off work, had a death in the family, or have no funds for food.
“People don’t look at the bigger picture, they just think you’re poor, and lazy and can’t you get a job,” said Theodore.