Illustrator Kailee Vanderwoerd
Food insecurity is a growing concern in Canada, where many lack adequate access to food due to financial limitations. According to Statistics Canada’s Canadian Income Survey, an estimated 15.9% of households across the 10 provinces faced some degree of food insecurity in 2021. Post-secondary students, who often face challenges with income, rent, and tuition, are considered to be more vulnerable.
In response, higher education institutions and student advocacy groups have been implementing strategies to ensure that students have access to food. BCIT students in need can explore the Food Support Hub, developed by BCIT Student Association (BCITSA) Wellness & Advocacy in partnership with the Greater Vancouver Food Bank.
This initiative serves to support students facing food insecurity challenges and helps to destigmatize the need for these resources.
“We have students come from all walks of life,” says Victoria Williams, BCITSA Wellness & Advocacy Coordinator. “We have students from age 18 to 60. We have international students. We have domestic students. [From] [t]hose who come from single-living dwellings to those who have dependents. I think food insecurity affects us all in so many ways, so even if you might think that maybe you don’t qualify, or maybe there are people who have it worse than you—it’s okay to recognize [that you need support]. This is what we’re here for—we are here to help everyone.
Several services are included in the Food Support Hub. Students can choose the one(s) they feel will best meet their needs.
Price: Free | Conditions: BCIT Student ID
The Food Pantry is a low-barrier space where students can drop in and access free, nutritious food. It is located next to the elevator on the second floor of SE2 (the Student Association building on the Burnaby campus). Students are encouraged to bring reusable bags when dropping by and will be asked to show their BCIT Student ID upon entry. Staff and volunteers are available to discuss other types of support if needed.
Current drop-in hours are every Wednesday and Thursday, 1-3 pm. Check the Food Support Hub webpage for open hours, which are subject to change.
Price: Free | Conditions: None
Compared to the Food Pantry, the Community Fridge can be an even lower-barrier way to access support because it does not require any identification. Anyone is free to take what they need and give what they can. Students can find the Community Fridge near the Food Pantry on the second floor of SE2. To learn more, visit their webpage.
Quest Food Exchange Referral
Price: Low | Conditions: Referral Only
Quest Food Exchange is a non-profit organization that provides affordable groceries to those facing food insecurity in BC. Several markets are in the Greater Vancouver area: Burnaby, Vancouver, North Vancouver, and Surrey. Students may be able to receive a three-year membership referral to shop at Quest Food Exchange by attending a Wellness Support appointment. To book yours, visit the Wellness website.
Price: Free | Conditions: Appointment Only
For students seeking personalized support with developing health goals, managing dietary restrictions, or incorporating more nutrition into meals, they can—starting January 2023—book a 30- or 50-minute one-on-one virtual meeting to speak with a nutritionist practicum student.
For updates in the meantime, students can check the Wellness website or the BCITSA Instagram page (@bcitsa).
Emergency Food Fund (EFF)
Price: Free | Conditions: Referral Only
Students unable to visit the Food Pantry and Community Fridge due to accessibility or location restrictions are encouraged to book a Wellness Support appointment on the Wellness website. Those eligible may receive funds to purchase food.
Community Food Network
Price: Free | Conditions: None
The newly developed Community Food Network webpage helps students find food support services near them. Searches can be filtered based on cost, location, the type of support needed, and more.
This system was developed to allow students to navigate and explore available services themselves, but students seeking further support or clarity can feel free to reach out to the Wellness & Advocacy team (see “How to Connect” for contact details).
Tackling food insecurity is an enormous feat, even at just one post-secondary institution. It involves ensuring that students have adequate access to food—and assuring them that support is available and that they are not alone in their experiences.
BCITSA Wellness & Advocacy strives to provide as many resources and support systems as possible to be there for students along their journey at BCIT. The Food Support Hub is one of the many initiatives that exist. Students can look forward to even more valuable services offered by the program as it continues to develop.
How to Connect
For further information about the Food Support Hub, reach out to email@example.com to speak with a Wellness & Advocacy team member. Those who are interested in volunteering with the Food Support Hub can visit their webpage to learn how to apply.