Campus Ministry food bank low on stockKarissa Donkin – The Aquinian
Vanna Dufour didn’t have a great summer break.
The fourth-year St. Thomas University student spent the summer in Saint John looking for employment.
She returned to Fredericton in September without much money, but plenty of discouragement.
“My chances of getting employment next year or during the summer seem really slim,” said Dufour. “I spent the entire summer unemployed.”
Dufour was not the only one who had a difficult time finding a job this summer.
According to Statistics Canada, student unemployment was at about thirty per cent in July, the highest it has been since 1977.
When students are unable to make up much of their costs over the summer, they have to rely more on publicly funded programs that offer grants and loans, funds that have taken a hit due to the economic crisis. Because of the way this money is allocated and loans are processed, students often find themselves in financial need at the beginning and end of each semester.
“It almost seems like most of your loan is gone before you get it,” explained Dufour, who will have to begin repaying her whopping $50,000 debt upon graduation. “Then by Christmas, you’re broke.”
That’s where the Campus Ministry food bank comes in. The food bank is located in a quiet spot in the chapel so students are able to use the service confidentially.
Campus Minister Janice Ryan agrees that this year has been particularly hard on students.
The Campus Ministry purchases $300 worth of food for the food bank every three weeks, in addition to donations. But this year, the shelves are emptying quickly.
“It is low [right now]. We want the community to know that we are always looking for contributions,” said Ryan, noting that the $300 worth of food was gone within a week and a half.
Students can also use the food basket, which is located outside of the Campus Ministry office in George Martin Hall. But that too, said Ryan, cannot seem to stay stocked.
The biggest fundraising event for the food bank is the annual Trick or Eat event hosted by the Meal Exchange. Since the event happens in the middle of the semester, it helps supplement students during rough winters. A portion of what Trick or Eat volunteers raise also goes to the Fredericton food bank.
Trick or Eat coordinator Emily Bosse says that registration is on track for this year for the crucial fundraiser.
“Our goal for this year is basically to maintain what we did last year,” Bosse says, referring to the 10 tonnes of food raised by volunteers at last year’s event.
Ryan just wants the community to be “aware that it is used and aware that they can help.”
Students facing the financial crunch can also turn to the Students’ Union. The STUSU offers emergency bursaries to those who need money immediately to pay for unexpected expenditures.
Despite the tough summer for students, there has not been an increase in applications for these bursaries.
“So far this academic year, nine emergency bursaries have been issued to students,” said VP Student Life Gemma Marr. “This is actually lower than previous years.”
Dufour traces all of these problems back to the high unemployment rate for students.
“Something needs to be done with employment. The unemployment rate is unbelievable.”
For now, the shelves of the Campus Ministry food banks continue to empty quickly as students try to make ends meet.
“You can’t always expect where the financial strain will come from,” said Ryan.
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