Why some Toronto post-secondary students turn to food banks to get by

Post-secondary students in Toronto say rising tuition and rent are forcing them to use food banks to get by. A new Hunger Count study says of 863,492 who used a food bank in Canada this year, 26,768 are in college or university.

200 students have signed up with Ryerson University's Good Food Centre this month

Volunteers organize food donations at Ryerson University's Good Food Centre. (Christine Pagulayan/CBC )

Luis has been coming to Ryerson University's Good Food Centre for the past two years.

The second-year computer engineering student visits 10 times a month, picking up non-perishable food, and fresh fruit and vegetables when they're available.

"I'm trying to get through my workload without going hungry," Luis told CBC Toronto.

Luis, who didn't want his last name used, is just one of 200 students signed up with Ryerson's food bank. The centre uses a points system, and students only need a student number to sign up. 

Shelves stocked after a delivery from the Daily Bread Food Bank at Ryerson University's Good Food Centre. (Christine Pagulayan/CBC)

"In my household, we don't really have that big of an income. We do what we can. If we can cut some costs, I try to take that ... demand off my family and put it on myself," he said.

I'm trying to get through my workload without going hungry.- Luis, Ryerson University student

He cites tuition fees, increasing property costs and living expenses, as well as fewer work hours as reasons for his food insecurity.

And he's not alone. 

In March 2016, 863,492 people used a food bank in Canada, up 1.3 per cent from the same time last year and up 28 per cent from March 2008, according to the Hunger Count 2016 report from Food Banks Canada.

Of the 863,492 Canadians receiving food, 3.1 per cent, or 26,768, are post-secondary students. 

The University of Toronto, York University, OCAD University and George Brown College all run food banks for their students.

Claire Davis, the volunteer community outreach coordinator at the Good Food Centre, says she isn't surprised by the numbers.

Claire Davis is the volunteer and community outreach coordinator at the Good Food Centre. (Christine Pagulayan/CBC)

"I think it's a pretty accurate reflection of the state of things. The price of tuition is going up every year. The cost of housing in Toronto for students is increasing as the city gentrifies, and this is not something that is increasing with wages," she said.

Every Tuesday, the Daily Bread Food Bank delivers donations to Ryerson University's Good Food Centre. (Christine Pagulayan/CBC)

Davis also said students are constantly having to balance between putting their energy into their post-secondary education and feeding themselves.

"That's something people should never have to choose between."

About the Author

Christine Pagulayan

CBC News Reporter

Christine Pagulayan is a reporter with CBC Toronto. She is also a producer at CBC News Network. Before working for CBC Toronto, she has worked for CBC News in Moncton, Halifax, Vancouver and Winnipeg. Find her on Twitter: @christineisa.