Kingston post-secondary students receive fresh food boxes through nationwide program

ASUS working with Meal Exchange to mitigate campus food insecurity

While ASUS is facilitating the partnership, the program is open to all post-secondary students currently living in Kingston.
Journal File Photo

The Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS) has collaborated with Meal Exchange to secure fresh food boxes for students across the Kingston community.

Meal Exchange, a national non-profit organization that works to engage students and campuses on issues of food security, has partnered with Good Food Box Kingston to provide 30 students with their small food box option on a bi-weekly basis from May 21 to June 30.

Due to the increasing prevalence of food insecurity during COVID-19, Meal Exchange has been connecting students across the country with fresh produce, including peppers, carrots, and bananas  through a new program called Good Food Now.

“[D]uring COVID-19, campuses across the country have reduced or closed food services,” Brittany Maguire, Good Food campus lead in Central and Eastern Canada, wrote in a statement to The Journal. “Students are struggling financially, as many have been laid off from their part-time jobs, are unable to find summer jobs, and government support remains inadequate, leaving students increasingly at risk of food insecurity”

At Queen’s, the collaboration was developed by David Niddam-Dent, ASUS president, Matt D’Alessandro, ASUS vice-president, and Caitlin Hayes, ASUS equity and sustainability director

Niddam-Dent wrote in a statement to The Journal that Meal Exchange did the heavy lifting on implementing the project.

“We are helping publicize the Good Food Boxes and making sure they get to students in need, but the provision, organization, and funding have all come on Meal Exchange’s side,” Niddam-Dent wrote. “Our largest role has been connecting Meal Exchange’s resources with students on campus.”

He said the collaboration was partly a function of good luck because he was connected to Meal Exchange by his brother shortly after expressing the Society’s desire to address food insecurity on campus.

“We're always looking for partnerships with community organizations to bring their work to campus, and we jumped at the opportunity to make connections between students in need and resources that can help them, especially on an issue like food insecurity,” Niddam-Dent wrote.

At the same time, Maguire was looking for a partner at Queen’s to raise awareness about the Good Food Boxes that Meal Exchange was aiming to provide for students in the community. 

While ASUS has been facilitating the partnership, the program is open to all post-secondary students who are currently living in Kingston. Due to its limited capacity, the program is designed to accept the first 30 students who apply.

The initial deadline for applying was May 14, however it has been extended until May 27 for deliveries beginning on June 4. Nine students are scheduled to receive deliveries this week.

The project will remain a short-term initiative unless Meal Exchange is able to secure additional funding.

“[T]here’s a number of concerns with student food insecurity, and there’s a serious need for it to be further addressed on campus,” Niddam-Dent wrote.

While he acknowledged the AMS Food Bank and other University efforts that work to combat food insecurity, he said issues of stigma around accessing these resources, good quality food, and culturally appropriate food remain prevalent.

“Food insecurity is tied to a number of related issues, especially financial ones, which are also a priority for the Society,” Niddam-Dent wrote. “We also recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic has likely increased the severity of food insecurity for many post-secondary students, including those at Queen's.”

He pointed to the University’s Food Insecurity Report, released last November, which highlighted the pre-existing significance of food insecurity on campus. With the financial and physical impacts that the pandemic has had on the ability for individuals to access food, he said the Society recognizes the immediate need for action.

“This effort is what we settled on in the short term, but we're looking forward to working further with Meal Exchange [because] they [run] a number of impactful programs on campuses,” Niddam-Dent wrote.

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