Usage of the AMS Food Bank is up 50 per cent from last year, according to the service’s director Devin Cleary.
Food bank usage had dropped to an all-time low in 2007 — a year when it saw only 50 visits — primarily due to a change in locations from the Journal house to McGillivray-Brown Hall. At the time, food bank staff said the change might have decreased awareness among students of the service.
The average number of visitors is now roughly 20 to 25 per week, a 50 per cent increase from last year’s numbers, according to Cleary. She attributed the increase to the service’s efforts to boost awareness around campus with its recent rebranding and awareness campaign.
The new campaign began last year with a rebranding of its name from the AMS Food Centre to the AMS Food Bank. Since then, it has continued with new logos, a revamped website, awareness posters in residences and discussions and meetings between AMS staff and first-year students.
Food Bank staff also had a large presence at this year’s Sidewalk Sale, where they pushed for more awareness of the service.
Cleary, ArtSci ’16, said they’re trying to combat the stigma of using the food bank.
“I think there is an idea that Queen’s is very affluent and there are a lot of people fortunate enough to be in that position,” she said.
“But it is important to remember that some students are not in that position, and it’s really hard sometimes to make ends meet between tuition, textbooks and everything else that you need to be a student.”
The food bank is a resource for students who have financial difficulty and need affordable and nutritious food, she said.
“It takes a lot of courage to use a food bank,” Cleary said. The service has worked to build a reputation as a confidential and non-judgemental service, she added.
“Anyone can come in and use the service. All you have to do is bring a student card, so that we make sure we are only serving students.”
The new awareness initiative won’t stop at the rebranding. The service is also planning to add a new member of staff to oversee a sustainability initiative.
“The sustainability coordinator position is fairly new, so we’re still trying to figure out what we’re trying to do with it. But we have some really great ideas, including workshops for how to extend the shelf life of food, getting more organic and local produce, making the food bank cleaner and applying for sustainability grants,” she said.
She said although Queen’s is often stereotyped as attracting more affluent students, there’s still a large portion who depend on the services of the AMS Food Bank. The food bank lets lower-income students “spend time studying instead of working to buy food”, she said.
“It’s just trying to level the playing field, so that everyone is able to give their best and not be worried about where their next meal is going to come from.”
The AMS Food Bank is open Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
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