By KIRSTEN FENN
With more students accessing its emergency food programs every month, the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) Food Centre has launched a campaign advocating for greater awareness about food security.
The Food Centre held its first “I Care About Hunger” campaign on Nov. 28 and 29, which aimed to start conversation and reduce the stigma surrounding hunger.
Students filled out posters stating why they care about hunger, and were encouraged to share their thoughts on Twitter by tweeting @CUSAFood.
“It’s an outreach campaign, but it’s also collecting information,” said Sarah McCue, program coordinator at the Food Centre. She hopes that students will share concerns and questions that the Food Centre may not be aware of.
McCue said that until there is open conversation about hunger, the root cause cannot be addressed.
“One of the big obstacles we’re trying to always get over is that initial stigma, so being able to have these conversations in public is something that’s really important to the campaign,” she said.
Seeing their peers talk about the issue, said Food Centre administrative coordinator Tabitha McDonald, will hopefully encourage students to get involved or seek the help they haven’t been able to in the past.
“I don’t believe any individual should ever have to feel shunned, stigmatized, or made to feel less than because of a problem that’s so firmly rooted in society,” said McDonald.
Since last September, the Food Centre has seen a 148 per cent increase month to month in the number of students accessing their emergency food hamper program.
The cost and accessibility of food along with rising tuition fees are increasing challenges to students, McDonald explained.
“If you have to worry about where your next meal is coming from, how are you supposed to focus on the essay that you have due on Friday?
“That doesn’t set anybody up for success,” she said.
With a rising number of students coming to the Food Centre for assistance, the demand for food and the capacity to store it is becoming a challenge. The Food Centre occasionally finds itself unable to meet the needs of students. During summer months especially, supplies and donations tend to dwindle.
The Food Centre is in the process of planning a meeting with other post-secondary food centers in the Ottawa area to discuss the issues they face.
McDonald hopes that, together, organizations in Ottawa can raise awareness about the increasing number of students accessing food assistance programs. She hopes that her campaign will spark conversation.
“I honestly think that if we put enough effort into this, this is something that could be really, really huge,” said McDonald.