AMS food bank fee no longer mandatory

President, Social Issues Commissioner say the service will face restrictive budget shortfall

Following fee transition, AMS food bank faces budget shortfall.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo
After two years of financial stability, the AMS food bank will face funding shortfalls in the 2019-20 school year.
 
In a July meeting with the University’s Division of Student Affairs (DSA) to discuss ancillary fees under the Student Choice Initiative (SCI), the AMS executive was informed the food bank’s $2.00 fee would be stripped of its mandatory status, allowing students to opt out of the fee.
 
In an interview with The Journal, AMS President Auston Pierce said when the Society’s fee slate was passed by the Board of Trustees in May, the food bank fee was mandatory for the 2019-20 year. 
 
“We were counting on it this year to be a mandatory fee, one hundred per cent,” Pierce said.
 
The University made the decision to transition the fee to comply with a provincial government directive requiring campus food bank fees to be listed as optional, according to a written statement to The Journal on July 24 by Tom Harris, interim provost and vice-principal (Academic).
 
“The AMS Food Bank provides a valuable service to the Queen’s community, and we hope that students will choose to support this important initiative,” Harris said. 
 
Pointing to the Swipe It Forward program—which allows students on university meal plans to donate food to students in need—Harris added the Office of the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) and the DSA are exploring measures the University can take to address the issue of food insecurity on campus.
 
The Society isn’t as optimistic.
 
In an interview with Pierce and Bunisha Samuels, commissioner of social issues, Pierce said the changes will jeopardize the Society’s efforts to address campus food insecurity.
 
“Having consistent funding means we’re able to offer more, we’re able to plan better, and we’re able to provide more food for people on our campus and in our community,” Pierce said.
 
He added he believes designating campus food banks as non-essential shows where the Province’s priorities truly lie.
 
“It’s definitely disappointing that students on campus are stuck in this position where food security isn’t deemed a priority,” he said. “It’s not deemed essential to have a full stomach. It’s upsetting.”
 
However, as Pierce acknowledges, there is not much the University or the Society can do to address the fee’s status. Failure to comply with government SCI mandates could jeopardize access to core operating grants the University relies on.
 
One way Pierce thinks the Society can bring attention to the issue of food insecurity on campus is by running food drives. Pierce hopes bringing the issue into the forefront will lead to increased donations.
 
“We are hoping to make up for as many losses as we can,” he said.
 
Both Pierce and Samuels acknowledged, however, that student philanthropy cannot fill the void left by removing consistent funding, and predict food bank usage will only continue to increase, especially with cuts to financial aid tightening student budgets.
 
Samuels explained the Society has been working to expand the food bank to meet the growing need.
 
“Over the last two years, the food bank has significantly grown, even in terms of what we do in stock,” she said. “We’ve gone past non-perishable items into stocking up on chicken, meat, vegetables, meat alternatives, dairy alternatives, vegan options, expanding it to fit every single type of dietary restriction so that it’s accessible as it can be.” 
 
These improvements come at a financial cost, however. And without funding the food bank has come to rely on, expansion is in jeopardy.  
 
“I think it’s going to be detrimental to the people who actually have that need,” Samuels said. “We’re going to see that need go up, but not have enough resources to be able to supplement it.”
 

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