At the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union’s Food Centre, 93 trained volunteers create a safe space for access to free, quality food at the University of Toronto Scarborough.
In 2017, the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) established the Food Centre to tackle food insecurity on campus. Since March, they have provided more than 702 food parcels to students.
It’s an initiative that takes a community to support.
“Working together to provide an equitable, friendly and safe space to build community is something you don’t see often. Community support is something we really appreciate,” says Sarah Abdillahi, president of the SCSU.
With the help of donations, the Food Centre provides everything from fresh produce, non-perishable food items, baby food, toiletries and personal hygiene products to its 400 registered members.
Located on the second floor of the Student Centre, the centre sees 75 visits per week. From 2019-2020, approximately 900 meals were offered through its monthly community breakfast program.
Since the summer term, where services temporarily paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the centre has partnered with Daily Bread and FoodShare Toronto programs to safely prepare and deliver food hampers.
“The Food Centre is an essential service, and folks weren’t comfortable with picking up boxes on campus,” Abdillahi says. “We wanted to safely support our students.”
It takes a community
With $5,000 in donations from U of T Scarborough’s Annual Fund, new shelving and a refrigerator were purchased last year.
The Annual Fund provides relief to the area of greatest need on campus, such as student financial aid, experiential learning opportunities and the Food Centre.
“We are thankful for our alumni’s response in giving to the Annual Fund,” says Celeste Richards, director of development at the University of Toronto Scarborough.
“When the SCSU came to us requesting funds to address food security for our students, we were able to respond right away, because we had support from our alumni.”
Looking ahead, the centre is planning campus-wide food drives, online cooking classes focused on healthy meals, and a garden program. They also need a commercial freezer to store more frozen vegetables, fruits and meats.
“We are using the freezer at Rex’s Den, but it’s only temporary,” Abdillahi says. “Anything helps, whether it’s the boxes we deliver food with, to the equipment that we need.”