The social and economic disruptions caused by COVID-19 continue to have profound global impacts. In Canada, the need for access to emergency food assistance has reached new levels, with reports of one in seven individuals experiencing food insecurity during the course of the pandemic. At Conestoga, the food bank run by the college’s official student association remains an essential service.
The CSI Food Bank remains an essential service at Conestoga, distributing emergency food hampers to students.
In operation for nearly two decades, the Conestoga Students Inc. (CSI) Food Bank offers emergency support to ensure vulnerable students have access to healthy and nutritious food. Like most services, CSI was forced to pivot and adapt many of its programs last year in light of the pandemic, resulting in a temporary suspension of traditional food bank operations. An emergency grocery gift card program co-funded by Conestoga and CSI was established as interim support, providing gift cards valued between $50 and $75 to more than 5,400 students.
Since resuming operations in August, the CSI Food Bank has distributed more than 600 emergency food hampers to students. Available in regular, vegetarian or family-sized options, each hamper includes a three-day supply of perishable and non-perishable food, as well as hygiene items and a $25 grocery gift card. CSI distributes hampers to approved students through curbside pickup at the college’s Kitchener-Doon, Waterloo, Guelph and Brantford campuses.
“Food security is crucial for students to be successful in their academic pursuits,” said CSI president Sana Banu. “Student well-being and mental health is a priority for CSI’s board of directors, and we’re humbled to have the opportunity to continue to serve our student community during these uncertain times. We’re thankful to our community partners and donors who help us bring this initiative to fruition.”
According to Statistics Canada, the relationship between food insecurity and mental health has been made worse by the pandemic, with more than half of food-insecure Canadians reporting struggles with depression and anxiety. Access to healthy and nutritious food is essential in maintaining mental and physical well-being. Through donations, CSI sources fresh and frozen produce, along with canned and dried goods from wholesale, grocery stores and through its partnership with The Food Bank of Waterloo Region as a member of the Community Food Assistance Network -- a system comprised of more than 100 community programs and agency partners providing food and connection to vital supports.
As the college’s official student association, CSI represents the interests of students across all Conestoga campuses. Support services focus on leadership and career development, academics, and health and wellness. Students in need of emergency food assistance are encouraged to visit the CSI Food Bank online for more information.
In adherence to public health guidelines, the CSI Food Bank currently accepts monetary donations in lieu of food items.