Queen’s should supplement food bank funding loss

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Under Premier Doug Ford’s Student Choice Initiative (SCI), health and counselling remain an essential category for student fees. But a failure to mandate student fees for the campus food bank equates a failure to recognize food security as a critical component of health. 

Over the summer, The Journal reported that campus food bank fees would no longer be categorized as essential.

On the fee opt-out portal, the AMS food bank’s description states that it “ensures that Queen’s students can be healthy and productive as they pursue academic achievement.” 

Considering Premier Ford promised health would be an essential fee category, assuming all students are able to afford healthy food is a massive oversight. It stems from a place of privilege. This isn’t a surprise from someone who has never had to wonder where their next meal is coming from. 

But it’s also not an excuse. Low-income students at Queen’s are not a small population. Following Doug Ford’s January announcement that he would be eliminating the free tuition program, bursary applications for financial assistance surged more than 30 per cent from the previous year.

Categorizing food security as non-essential shows more than a lack of empathy for low-income students—it’s systemic discrimination against them. 

Low-income students pose special value for post-secondary institutions because they bring different lived experiences and resilience to an innovative environment. If Queen’s wants to be an educational leader, it must enable low-income students to thrive by supplementing any food bank funding losses.

From OSAP cuts to categorizing fees for campus food banks and work-study programs as non-essential, the Ontario government has taken a clear stance against low-income students. This isn’t the University’s fault, but it demands that Queen’s also take a stance. 

In a recent CBC article, Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) national chairwoman Sofia Descalzi said “food banks are concerned they may have to turn students who are in need away.”

As someone who grew up relying on food banks, I know how poverty can grip you. Food banks have always been a way to lessen this hold, because they make affording healthy food one less thing to worry about. 

The idea of being turned away from a food bank empty-handed is beyond horrifying—it reinforces an outdated shame that Queen’s has an obligation to keep off this campus. 

People go to food banks because they want and deserve to be healthy, but also because they have no other choice—which is what Doug Ford promised to provide when he started this mess. 

Raechel is The Journal’s News Editor. She’s a fourth-year English major.

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