After losing thousands, Food Bank student fee up for mandatory status

15 to 20 per cent increase in service’s use this year, manager says

Food bank fee pushing for mandatory status in winter referendum.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo
The AMS Food Bank lost $6,000 this year following the implementation of the Student Choice Initiative—about a quarter of its overall budget. There’s also been an uptick in the service’s use of about 15 to 20 per cent.
 
The Food Bank’s $2 student fee is up for mandatory status on the winter referendum ballot. If a majority of students vote in favour of making the fee mandatory, Food Bank manager Max Moloney told The Journal the service’s long-term viability could be secured. 
 
“We’re basically just trying to ensure the sustainability of our service and increase the programming available to us,” he said.
 
He added that while the Food Bank is currently fully stocked, they’re close to lacking enough food for all of its patrons.
 
“In the past, we usually budget and order our food based on past numbers, so we are a bit burdened,” he said.
 
Moloney also said that while every person who uses the Food Bank is different, the Ford government’s cuts to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) might be a contributing factor to that increase. 
 
“We’re just trying to make sure that, going forward, especially given the OSAP cuts and everything that’s gone on with that, we’re going to be here for a while,” he said. “Making sure the fee is mandatory is an important piece of that.”
 
International student tuition has also increased this year, another concern for Moloney.
 
“International student tuition has gone up significantly as a result of the cuts, and that is a large base of our patrons,” he said. "Making sure that we’re stocked is the primary concern.”
 
Despite some of the obstacles the Food Bank is facing this year, Moloney said starting in February it will be a host for the Good Food box program, a Kingston health initiative that provides affordable produce to community members.
 
“It’s a lot of fruits and vegetables for way cheaper than you can get them in the grocery store,” he said.
 
AMS Social Issues Commissioner Bunisha Samuels, however, stressed the problem of food insecurity on campus in an interview with The Journal. 
 
“We’re seeing increasing rates of food insecurity on campus, large amounts,” she said.
 
Samuels added that if the Food Bank is going to be able to increase its self-advocacy and educational programming to combat growing food insecurity, the service will need more funding.
 
“With an increase in advocacy and educational programming, you need an increase in funding.”
 
The Student Choice Initiative was unanimously struck down by the Divisional Court of Appeal on Nov. 21. In December, the Province announced that it would appeal the decision, casting student unions and governments once again into a state of uncertainty.
 
Samuels wouldn’t comment on that uncertainty and what it means for the Food Bank, stating that it’s mostly in the hands of the Food Bank and Society’s executive successors. 
 
“It would have to do a lot with successors and what the new executives will decide in terms of their negotiations with the University and the provincial government,” she said.
 
She agreed, however, that a successful appeal would be concerning. 
 
“At that point, we would have to find alternate sources of funding. A lot of our contingency planning has been centered [on] the fact that the Student Choice Initiative no longer exists and trying to go back to some of our previous structures,” she said. “Obviously, it’s a 50/50 chance of whether or not the appeal will pass.”
 

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