A University of Alberta Campus Food Bank program is helping students access more low cost grocery stores.
“Sometimes it can be hard to get to more low cost grocery stores if they’re out of the way, so I think this is a great way to get there without using a car,” Campus Food Bank volunteer Courtenay Chu said.
The grocery bus runs once a week leaving from outside HUB mall every Saturday morning.
“Last week we had a lot of people show up, because it was the first bus of the semester, so people are stocking up on groceries which is great,” Chu explained.
The bus stops at different grocery stores like Superstore, T&T Supermarket and some specialty shops on 34 Avenue.
“Being able to get to T&T or get some cultural foods you may not be able to get nearby,” Chu said.
The grocery bus started pre-pandemic.
At the time, about a dozen students would utilize the weekly service.
The program was paused for two years because of the pandemic and now it sees on average about 30 students every week.
“What we’re hearing, especially from our international student clients this year, is that the budget numbers they were provided by the university with guidance on how much money to set aside for their day-to-day living was really underestimated — and inflation was moving so quickly this fall,” Campus Food Bank executive director Erin O’Neil said.
“A lot of students who came from different countries are affected by the fact that our grocery prices have gone up so much since they originally budgeted.”
The Campus Food Bank itself continues to see high demand with not only inflation but rising tuition also playing a part.
“We’re on track to hit about 700 visits per month and that’s about where we’ve been at throughout the fall,” O’Neil explained.
“At the Campus Food Bank it depends on the time of year, because we have students receiving loans at different times of the year, or running out of those loans at different times of the year.”
O’Neil said to help with student food insecurity, the food bank expanded its free breakfast program to Campus Saint-Jean in the fall of last year.
It’s also working on putting more snack stations across the university, as buying food on campus is expensive.
“We have a lot of folks here who are really good at taking care of themselves and cooking for themselves — they are just having a hard time actually affording the food to do it,” O’Neil said.