Hungry for knowledge: students facing hunger while at school

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Students waiting in line to buy coffee food and snacks at Second Cup located in the SCAET building at Sheridan College, Trafalgar Campus. (Photo by Gloria Namugenyi/Sheridan Sun)

By GLORIA NAMUGENYI

Nearly 40 per cent of Canadian post-secondary students don’t have enough money to eat nutritious meals.

A study called Hungry for Knowledge conducted by Meal Exchange, surveyed 45,000 students across five post-secondary schools over a period of 16 months.

Meal Exchange is a national charity organization that helps youth be more active and involved in their local food systems. The study shows that one of the biggest reasons for students not being able to afford healthy food is due to expenses like tuition.

Many students seem to agree with the findings of the study.

“I agree, it’s a lot more expensive to buy healthy food as opposed to junk food due to the deals on junk food,” says Jordan Annekristen Legue, a Child and Youth Care Practitioner Work student.

Edward Moszynski, a student counsellor at Sheridan College, has had first-hand complaints from students, and it’s not surprising to him that there are many students who feel financially strapped.

“We are well attuned to the reality of students studying full-time, scrambling to pay increasingly high tuition fees, sometimes by working one or more often low-paying jobs, and many of our students are also raising children or trying to help their families with rent or mortgage payments,” says Moszynski.

These issues have often led to not only a lack of proper nutrition but also physical and mental issues for many students.

“I think the perception among many students that they don’t have the time or money to eat healthier is very real. Moreover, eating poorly can lead to other problems such as poor concentration, fatigue and even issues with mood; so it is an extremely important issue,” says Moszynski.

Many may say it’s the government and the school’s problem.

“Students know what they’re getting into coming to school and they should be saving up, but it’s also a problem of society,” says Legue.

Although, some may feel that way, Moszynski doesn’t agree that it’s only a problem of the students or school.

“I would say it would not be accurate or fair to attribute blame for this issue in any one direction. It is a very complex problem that requires a multitude of approaches but I would say the school, students themselves, parents and government all need to share in taking an active role in assuming some responsibility.”

Post-secondary institutions like Sheridan have put this issue at the forefront and helping students deal with hunger.

“I think many departments are already doing many things to help. For example, Financial Aid offers workshops on budgeting and does what it can to promote bursaries and grants to assist students financially,” says Moszynski.

Sheridan’s  student union also has an emergency food bank at all three campuses providing assistance to students who can’t afford meals.

Sheridan College has run a wellness week for the past two years where students engage in fun and interactive activities promoting good health, with healthy eating always being the emphasis.

Sheridan also offers two nutritional courses Nutrition for Well Being (NUTR19207G) and Wellness & Healthy Living – (HEAL13271G) as electives that any students can take no matter what program they’re enrolled in.

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