Food insecurity, within Nova Scotia, has become increasingly common in the last couple of years. According to a report published by the Canadian Journal of Public Health, Nova Scotia has the highest rate of food insecurity in the country.
For those of you that may not know, food insecurity is the lack of access an individual has to nutritious and sufficient food. The increasing amount of food insecurity within the province has been quite alarming. There is consensus that majority of the reason behind food insecurity within the province is due to the low hourly wage. Recent data analysis points to the fact that the livable wage should be a lot higher. According, to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report titled, Working for a living, not living for work, the Halifax living wage is $19.17 for 2016. Meaning that the current minimum wage of $10.70 isn’t liveable. The difference is over $8.00.
Am I the only one speechless here?? An eight-fricken dollar difference is what is needed for people residing in Halifax to receive hourly, in order to sustain themselves. People are having to cope with the gap between what people need in terms of habitable wages and what they are actually getting paid. This can certainly force individuals to be a great deal more frugal, which results in allocation of money from healthy eating towards paying rent or utility bills. Also, I understand why there is such difficulty with retention of skilled workers in the province. If people aren’t receiving a liveable wage, it only makes sense that they’ll move elsewhere.
After having come across this I was increasingly curious about what initiatives were being taken on campus to address the obvious issue. Many students have difficulty with regards to making ends meet, therefore the added factor of not being paid a liveable wage can throw students off the course of being financial stable. I was privileged with the opportunity to sit with Kala Rafuse a couple of days ago to learn more about SMU’s Community Food Room. I literally had no idea we had a food room until one of my colleagues mentioned it to me. Kala Rafuse has been a coordinator of the Community Food Room since it’s opening in August of 2015. According to Rafuse, 1,000 students have been accessing the food room from August 2015 – August 2016. Apparently, the level of need ranges from 1-3 meals per week (which is the majority) to +7 meals per week. Rafuse says that business students are the majority of students seeking out assistance from the Community Food Room and suggests that perhaps this is due to the fact that commerce students happen to be the largest group of students on campus. She also highlights that 10% of students seeking out assistance happen to be single-parents.
My biggest area of concern is definitely how impactful food insecurity is on student mental health and the performance level of students in their studies. Rafuse suggests that, “there is a stigmatization with regards to food insecurity and self-insecurity and it may affect an individual’s self-esteem which would affect their performance level at school. Also, students may turn to getting a full-time job, which would affect their performance level at school because they don’t have the capacity to focus on what’s important”.
Food insecurity does negatively impact a student’s life and adds a greater level of stress on students. For those of you that may not know the food room is a space for students to access healthy food for free, while maintaining human dignity. It is located on the 5th floor of the Student Building and once you step out of the elevators it’ll be to the left and positioned right next to the Women’s Centre. Students can access the Community Food Room during office hours and if there is an emergency, students can contact one of the coordinators who will let them in. You can stay up to date with any changes by following the Community Food Room on Facebook: @ SMUfoodroom You can also access their office hours @ http://www.smu.ca/academics/ community-food-room.html