Growing number of university students relying on food banks

EDMONTON – There are a growing number of university students in Edmonton who are relying on local food banks.

Jason Wong – who’s a member of the University of Alberta Campus Food Bank Society – has seen a 74 per cent increase in food bank use year over year during the month of May, which is immediately after the school year concludes for university students.

“It especially hits us hard in September and January when term starts – when basically a lot of students are waiting for a final pay cheque to come in or a final student loan to come in.”

The campus food bank has grown significantly since its inception. The room now holds about 3,500 lbs of food.

“You know it comes down sometimes to that point where you’re making the decision between paying the tuition and eating,” says David Fischer, MacEwan University recruiter.

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Fischer had experience with the dilemma while he was a student at MacEwan.

“It became difficult at a couple of points. I did have to use the food bank at MacEwan a couple of times myself, paying for tuition, books, everything that comes along with that, being on student loans, lines of credit from the bank.”

Read More: University of Alberta Law dean proposing 58% tuition increase

The Canadian Federation of Students says skyrocketing tuition fees are partly to blame for the historic student debt levels.

Nearly 425,000 students have been forced to borrow money for their education during the past year.

Read More: A look at the rise of tuition costs – and student debt – in Canada

The average tuition for a four-year bachelor’s degree now tops $5,572 annually, according to the Canadian Federation of Students (who’s stats are based on Statistics Canada data and internal projections).

That’s an increase of more than 67 per cent versus what the average degree for a four-year college program cost in 2000 (it was $3,328 annually).