The U of M food bank has long been a reliable resource for students facing financial challenges, and since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been of even greater help to students than usual.
According to Jane Lastra, associate registrar and director of financial aid and awards, there has been a substantial increase in the food bank’s use in the past year. She attributed the heightened utilization of the food bank to the financial circumstances students have been left in since the beginning of the pandemic, such as “loss of income [and] loss of part-time work opportunities for students.”
In a typical year, the food bank would be available in-person to students, but the unprecedented circumstances required an adaptation of its operation.
The food bank is currently working with a remote delivery model adopted in March 2020, the initial campus closure, by the U of M along with UMSU, UMGSA, student affairs and local grocery Food Fare to provide same-day delivery to students from Monday to Friday at no charge to the student.
Food bank hampers provide students with non-perishable items to offset grocery costs, and they then have the opportunity to use that saved money to buy their own perishables.
Since the closing of campus, the food bank has raised approximately $60,000 through fundraising to support its operation.
Along with the remote availability of the food bank, the university has increased financial support for students in the form of bursaries and COVID-19 relief funds, in total amounting to a $9 million increase in financial support from the year prior.
“There’s so many barriers to success for students, financial, personal, academic,” Lastra said.
“Every student has the right to wake up and have enough food on-hand to nourish themselves […] and we need to remove the barrier.”