The effects of food insecurity are prevalent amongst McMaster Students
Food Collective Centre at McMaster University shares how they are contributing to supporting students through the ongoing food crisis
Food insecurity has become increasingly relevant in Canada, with reports from 2023 indicating that throughout Canada people are struggling with food for many different economical factors, such as cost of living.
This issue is also prevalent in Hamilton. The Hamilton Food Share coordinates emergency food shipping throughout their their 23 hunger-relief programs. They found in March 2023 there was a total of just over 33 500 visits across their 23 hunger-relief programs.
The Food Collective Centre at McMaster University is a service that offers a food bank system and resources for students. In addition to their food bank, the FCC has fronted other food security initiatives such as Lockers of Love, Good Food Box and the Community Kitchen Workshop.
FCC director Samantha Cheng shared that the food insecurity for students presents in many different ways. Cheung explained that food illiteracy, or not being able or struggling to find time to cook, is a common contributor to food insecurity.
“Fresh produce is what's most difficult to obtain, students tend to turn to the quicker options. Which often look like processed foods [or] snacks and so produce might be at the back of their agenda. Which is obviously not great, because you want to promote eating more fruits and vegetables for better health outcomes,” said Cheng.
Cheng explained that due to many of these factors, food insecurity is experienced at higher rates by marginalized communities. She expressed that this holds true not just at McMaster, but the larger community that spans Canada.
Within marginalized student communities, Cheung explained how international students are specifically at risk of being subjected to food insecurity. This demographic is recognized within the FCC and they are currently in contact with the International Student Services.
Cheung shared how at one of their recent International Food & Grocery Trips, the FCC presented their work
, and exchanged information with the students.
“International students, [FCC’s] also seen, they struggle with adapting to the food systems here in Canada, and especially like not being able to access cultural, like food that they're used to in their culture,” said Cheng.
Currently the FCC is planning an initiative with the Indigenous Health Movement to raise awareness on Indigenous food sovereignty. She shared that raising awareness is important, and can further educate students on an aspect of Indigenous sovereignty.
Cheng ultimately believes that by working with groups on campus that focus specifically on marginalized populations that they can better understand how to address the needs of food insecurity from these communities.
“One way we are trying to address specific marginalized groups is to reach out to different communities on campus that are that perhaps have people who can who represent these groups and work towards these groups, and we partner with them. We hope to partner with them to raise awareness for the greater student population,” said Cheng.
Cheng shared that the biggest barrier to services they currently face is budget. She shared that while they do not focus specifically on donations from the community, they do accept them.
“A lot of times our partners are disappointed or frustrated because they go to the pantry and they see there's nothing there. We are limited by budget in terms of how much we can purchase for the fridge in the community [and] the fridge in the pantry space, despite having [a] give what you can take what you need model. It's definitely been unbalanced. So funding is the largest barrier for all services, not just the food center,” said Cheng.
Cheng expressed that students are more than encouraged to reach out to the FCC whenever needed. They can answers questions, and help guide you through their services.
“We're here to support you, and we understand. We understand that your situation so you're not alone in this struggle,” said Cheng.
To learn more about FCC please visit their website, and get updates on current events please follow their Instagram. McMaster University has a McMaster Campus Food Council, where they share a list of resources on campus for students to utilize.