Food insecurity is a persistent issue for many post-secondary students that has assumed even greater importance since the advent of the global coronavirus pandemic.
Students at Acadia University are not immune to the problem nor are they unaware of its impact. In Wolfville, where the population is nearly doubled by a student enrolment of approximately 3,500 people each academic year, food insecurity concerns exist. But what does that mean?
In general, food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to safe and nutritious food to meet their respective dietary needs. This loose definition is represented through the following four necessary pillars of food security: affordability, availability, utilization (space to store, cook, and prepare food safely), and stability (access throughout the entire year).
Studies show food insecurity rates among post-secondary students are typically triple the national average of 10-14 per cent. Food instability peaks at certain times for students as well, like mid-terms and exams. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated food insecurity for many students, whether through loss of employment income, social isolation (particularly travel-induced) or from reduced store hours affecting food accessibility.
Acadia University has an opportunity on December 1 to highlight its current programs and seek support for student food security as part of a province-wide Giving Tuesday initiative by the J & W Murphy Foundation in partnership with Nova Scotia Universities. On this day, every gift to food security programs at Acadia will be matched by the Foundation, up to $3,500 total – enabling donors to turn every $1 into $2!
As a response to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday is an international grassroots movement driven by social media, spreading awareness and inspiration of all types of giving. Acadia recognizes Giving Tuesday annually by highlighting giving opportunities and stories which show the impact donor generosity can have on students, and encouraging special gifts on that day.
"As COVID-19 shut down our schools and universities, libraries and restaurants, drop-in centres and meal support services, we knew we had to step up to help prevent vulnerable Nova Scotians from falling through the cracks,” says Lisa Murphy, on behalf of the family foundation she and her sister, Karen Spalding, co-direct. “That includes students, many of whom have lost jobs and access to on-campus food services. We (the J & W Murphy Foundation) have been supporting universities across the province since before the pandemic began. Now that we’ve all settled into this new reality, it was not a hard decision to say yes to turn our attention to student hunger."
Multiple programs available
Most of the programs available to Acadia students are outlined on the University’s website. Highlights include:
The Acadia Students’ Union (ASU) established the Food Cupboard in 2018. Developed to fight food insecurity on campus, this student-led initiative provides emergency food and miscellaneous supplies such as toilet paper and feminine hygiene products to students in need. The room also provides nutritional information, dietary support, and budgeting tools to all students. The long-term objectives of the Food Cupboard include enhancing food literacy and nutrition on campus through the use of educational programming including community meals, organizing cooking classes, and hosting workshops.
Chartwells, Acadia’s food service provider, offers several opportunities for students in support of food security, including a leftovers donation whereby students are notified electronically of event catering available on campus once meetings and receptions are over.
In 2020, Acadia, like most universities, established a COVID-19 Student Relief Fund, to which J & W Murphy Foundation was a generous donor. This fund is available to students with financial need, supporting those who live with food insecurity. Student services, in collaboration with the Manning Memorial Chapel and University Chaplain, also developed a program to accept grocery and pharmacy gift cards from concerned citizens and distributed these to students.
For students living in isolation off campus, returning from outside the Atlantic Bubble or awaiting COVID-19 test results, the ASU is providing food delivery on campus. In partnership with Community Outreach Acadia, the Wolfville Farmers’ Market and the Independent Grocery store, isolating students are able to place their orders online or over the phone and receive delivery by student volunteers.
Nancy Handrigan (’92), Acadia’s Executive Director of Philanthropy, says, “food security is an important issue that can have a wide-ranging and significant effect on our students. We are delighted to have this opportunity to partner with the J & W Murphy Foundation and Nova Scotia universities to address food instability and provide members of the Acadia and alumni communities the chance to have their gifts doubled and provide a positive and direct impact on Giving Tuesday. We are all dedicated to our students’ success, and a donation in support of food security at Acadia is a wonderful way to demonstrate that commitment.”
For more, please visit our Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram pages on Giving Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, and use the hashtag: #Food4ThoughtNS.