Meal program helps ease student food insecurity concerns

New program a first for TRU

After working on the program for the past three years the Thompson Rivers University Students’ Union (TRUSU) launched their Community Meal program on Sep. 21 to serve free, healthy food and foster a sense of community among its members.

According to Macleans, “Research conducted on campuses across the country have found that approximately 40 percent of post-secondary students in Canada are food insecure,” and inadequate access to food due to financial constraints has pervasive effects, which impact every aspect of student life, from academic performance to mental health. 

In their report, Food Costing in BC 2022, the BC Centre for Disease Control claimed that “research shows that the strongest predictor of household food insecurity is not food prices, but inadequate incomes.” Students’ incomes are diminished by tuition, rent and limited employment while studying. Inflation continues to reduce the purchasing power of their meagre wages as the cost of living increases. 

“We’ve just seen nationally, provincially and locally the pressures on the affordability of students are going up and up and up,” said Nathan Lane, Executive Director of TRUSU. “It’s more expensive to find a place to live, it’s more expensive to eat, it’s more expensive to get transportation and so, we’re trying to make sure that the student union has programs to support our members where we can.”

The program offers a rotation of four vegetarian meals, including stir-fry, pasta, chana masala and chilli. These meals will be provided every second Thursday in the lecture hall of the Students’ Union Building until the end of this academic year.

This program contrasts and complements the Chef’s Package program, which provides students with a bag containing all the ingredients and a recipe card to prepare two to three servings of a meal at home.

“The community meal is the flip side,” Lane said, “which is [where] you can come and get one meal every two weeks and that meal is essentially already prepared, and so the two programs work together. They’re both addressed at making food costs affordable. We know it’s not going to solve all of students’ food problems, but every little bit helps.”

“Thus far, I think the feedback has been pretty good, and we’re pretty happy, but, like any program, we’re committed to do it for the whole year and then to evaluate what improvements can be made,” Lane said. “I suspect the program will evolve over time. Hundreds of students are getting a free meal and coming together and meeting new people. We think it’s been a success thus far, but we’ll see how the year goes.”        

This program is accessible to all TRU students, regardless of financial status. This resource is available to reduce on-campus food insecurity, and students can experience new cuisine and interact with TRUSU members and community-building. The next community meal is on Nov. 16 at noon in the Students’ Union Building lecture hall.