With local food banks providing food to over three thousand people on a monthly basis, hunger is a prevailing issue within the Brantford community.
One of the most underrepresented groups going hungry within Brantford is the student community.
“We want to do anything we can to support university students,” said Heather Vanner, Executive Director at Community Resource Service. “We want to talk to them, and have them know the service is here.”
Even with the recession, the number of local residents who depend on food bank services has remained steadfast and predictable for years. According to Vanner, between 3,200 and 3,500 people access the local food bank each month. One of the most at-risk demographics for hunger within the Brantford community are youths, as “about 40 per cent of people we support in a month are children under 18.”
“Our food requests are what we’re really trying to promote this year,” said Nicole Dilliot, Laurier Brantford’s student food bank coordinator. Alongside monthly food giveaways, the student food bank also provides students with the option of personal food requests. Requests are established through anonymous online forms and provide students in need with a duffle bag filled with enough food to last a week. “We’ve had about twelve requests this month,” said Dilliot.
Why Not Youth Centres, a string of independent community outreach programs that help to coordinate thousands of meals, help focus in on the youth in Brantford as well.
The Brantford centre provides youth with access to a free dinner on Monday nights, and hosts a Hot-Diggity-Dog program every Thursday, handing out pizza and hog dogs to anywhere from 40 to 70 people. Charlie Kopczyk, Executive Director of Why Not Youth Centres, believes it is important to be concerned about the risks hunger presents to students and young people within the community. “There are obviously health risks, but it also affects people mentally and emotionally because their focus and things wear down and they’re on edge… hunger is a huge determinant, especially when in school.”
With the extra expenditures that come from back to school, and the associated stress of midterm assignments and exams, fall tends to be a particularly hungry time of year. “Right now we’re starting to run low on donations,” Dilliot said, but the student food bank is hopeful that Halloween for Hunger and the many food drives planned throughout the year will help replenish the stock.
“Run food drives, and events that help food banks,” Vanner urged students, “help us grow further within the community.”