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Queen’s University grad students facing food insecurity, financial struggles

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Queen’s University grad students facing food insecurity, financial struggles
Many Queen's graduate students have had to take on second jobs in order to make ends meet – May 25, 2023

Graduate students at Queen’s University have been fighting for months for better wages for their academic work. Many say they are struggling to pay tuition, rent, and to even put food on the table.

Grad student Helen Lord has had to take on a second job in order to keep a roof over her head and afford groceries.

“I had to take on part-time jobs all throughout my studies to support myself and pick up some extra money where the grad salary doesn’t quite cover everything,” she told Global News.

Some grad students have turned to their local union for help. The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) has given out over $30,000 in grocery gift cards this year to students who felt like they had nowhere else to turn to.

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“I mean, it’s not really the job of a labour union to provide food support to its members. But given the difficult situation, and we are also graduate student workers, so we knew ourselves that it is not easy to make ends meet,” says Justyna Szewczyk-El Jassem, president, PSAC Local 901.

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Queen’s University says in a statement that the university, too, is struggling with finances due to declining international enrolment, inflation and the provincial tuition freeze. It adds that they are helping with food security for their students, stating that there is a student food bank on campus and that: “Untouched food from foodservice operations on campus is collected, packaged and distributed by donation to organizations such as Soul Food and PEACH Market which service people experiencing food insecurity.”

But even with these measures, grad students say they are struggling, with side jobs on top of their duties at school, leading to burnout.

“When you have that pressure on you all the time, and then you have to keep up these hours, and you have to keep up that part-time job, and you want to feel like you’re doing enough in all aspects of your life, burnout is a never-ending feeling,” Lord says.

PSAC says they can no longer afford to provide food support to its members, so Queen’s grad students will have to find other ways to put food on the table while stretching to make ends meet.

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