Food insecurity is a persistent public health issue in Canada, and it is also evident at York University. The 2022 Canadian Campus Wellbeing Survey data identified food security as a challenge for York students.
To help address food insecurity within the York community, the Food Insecurity Roundtable, which consists of students, student groups, faculty and staff, launched a bilingual food resources website. The website provides users with a list of resources and information to help navigate food supports across York’s campuses.
“I’m delighted the roundtable came together quickly to provide students and the community with these resources and information, and to develop new ones,” says Nona Robinson, vice-provost students. “York and our student groups have many food resources available, although students sometimes don’t know how to find them. It was important for us to have the information readily available and in one centralized location for all members of the York community to access.”
Robinson adds that the construction of the website was a way to take immediate action while simultaneously working on longer-term strategies. “We are continuing to work with partners across the University to provide additional food supports, and I’m encouraged that so many people are coming together to help with these initiatives to support York students,” she says.
The website shares food initiatives like the York Federation of Students Food Support Centre, the Glendon Campus Food Bank, and the Student Counselling, Health & Well-being (SCHW) Open Fridge program, which provides free food to those on campus who need it. There are also links directing users to information on funding and financial aid, including emergency bursaries.
Tina Ranta, assistant director of well-being for SCHW, says talking about food security may be difficult for students, and the website serves as a valuable tool to help tackle this. Food insecurity can impact multiple areas of an individual’s well-being, she adds.
“It’s difficult for students to learn in class if they are hungry. Undernourishment and insufficient access to food can have a significant effect on your mental health and overall well-being,” Ranta says.
SCHW also offers programming to assist students in developing good eating habits. A link to SCHW’s web page, which includes information about Canada’s Food Guide, nutrition labelling, dietitian services and other resources, is also available on the website.
Other initiatives on campus, in addition to the website, have also been launched, including a $6.99 Value Meals program led by Food Services, and Yorklicious led by Student Community & Leadership Development. Yorklicious includes specially priced orientation meals at participating campus food vendors from Aug. 26 to Sept. 8. Jair Kallidumbil, manager of student life, says they are available to all students, faculty and staff.
“Yorklicious will contribute to the University’s efforts in combating food insecurity on campus and help bring awareness to some of the food options we have at York,” he says, adding that community members are encouraged to visit one of the many participating food vendors to enjoy a meal priced at $10 or less.
Faculty and staff are encouraged to use the feedback feature on the right-hand side of the web page to share details about other initiatives or food supports they think should be included. Community members are also welcome to join the Food Insecurity Roundtable by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.