Claire Morrison, St. Thomas University’s campus minister, went to check on the food bank on Jan. 30 but discovered the storage cabinet had been pried open and items were stolen from inside.
This was the second time the food bank was broken into; it also happened 10 days prior on Jan. 20. The first time it occured, the door was unscrewed but later fixed by Facilities Management.
“Right now, [the cabinet door] is still broken and you can still stick your arm into the locker and take more food if you want, but there’s still lots of food on the shelves,” she said.
According to Morrison, the food bank has a locked cabinet to store food items purchased in bulk, such as canned fish, pasta, Kraft Dinner and instant ramen, so they can be rationed throughout the month.
She said whoever broke into the cabinet took some items, but did not manage to take everything.
“I don’t know whether the person was breaking into the food bank out of desperation … and they thought that there was better food that I was stashing away or if it was just malice,” she said.
“It’s not like the shelves were empty.”
Morrison said she informed Facilities Management of the second break-in and is now looking at options to deal with the situation.
Jeffrey Carleton, STU’s associate vice president of communications, said Facilities Management is considering reducing the food bank’s hours of operation to limit the number of break-ins.
He added officials could consider changing the food bank from a take-what-you-need format to food baskets if the problem persists.
Installing a security camera was considered to tackle the issue, but Carleton said Facilities Management has not had that discussion yet, as it would have a cost associated.
“You don’t want to police the area because you want people to feel free to use it anonymously, but at the same time if we have to take other steps to enhance the security, we’ll do so,” he said.
The STU Campus Ministry has a budget of about $150 per week to stock the food bank, which is available to students so they can access nutritional food.
Due to the rising cost of living, Morrison said she expects the number of students who use the food bank to increase, which is why she wants to make sure this type of incident doesn’t happen again.
“It doesn’t feel safe for people to be going into a food bank that’s been vandalized,” she said.
For now, Morrison said she is considering adding signs to remind users of the food bank’s reliability for students.
She also wants whoever broke into the food bank to come forward.
“Maybe we can find some other support to help [them] through a really difficult period,” said Morrison.