» Go to news main

A growing need for food

Posted by Stephanie Rogers on December 19, 2023 in Alumni & Friends, News
The Food Pantry on the Agricultural Campus
The Food Pantry on the Agricultural Campus

The Food Pantry in the basement of Cumming Hall was busy with students on the one of two days it was open this month.

“We can only open every two weeks based on the number of volunteers and our food resources at the time,” explained Alexe Indigo, a fifth-year plant science student and manager of the Pantry on the Agricultural Campus in Bible Hill.  

The Pantry, which is available year-round, provides low-barrier, confidential access to food essentials and has grown substantially since it was initiated in September of 2022, recently moving to a larger space in April of this year.  

“It’s continually growing,” she added.  “This time last year we were getting 10-15 students each time we opened. This fall we are seeing 40 -50 students every single time we are open.”

A recent food drive on campus initiated by Alexe and the Rotaract club led by President Emma Smith, a fifth year Agri-Business student, was a huge success, and the shelves have been completely stocked before opening day.

Operated for and by students.

The Food Pantry is run entirely by student volunteers and is facilitated by the Dal AC Rotaract club.

Alexe and Emma in the Food Pantry

“Rotaract provides an opportunity for students to connect with each other and the community, explained Emma.  “The students are volunteers first and dedicate their time to helping others where it is needed.”

The club meets weekly to discuss upcoming volunteer opportunities and charities that could benefit from their presence and oversee the Food Pantry.

It is estimated that eight per cent of the student population uses the Food Pantry on campus.

“We have always needed a food pantry,” said Emma.  “A lot more need arose with the pandemic, people can’t get to grocery stores, we have no public transportation, there are a lot of barriers.”

According to the recently released food price report, since the advent of the pandemic, food price inflation has risen over 20 per cent. Food bank usage is up 78.5 per cent since 2019, with one-third of those relying on food banks being children.

This past March, there was a total of 1,935,911 visits to food banks across Canada - up 32 per cent!

One of the main operational issues for the campus Food Pantry is people and food. The Pantry operates entirely through donation and the support of the local food bank with a small budget to ensure they can consistently provide staples like milk, bread, and eggs.

“If we had more people helping out and more regular donations, we would definitely be open more often.”

The Pantry, which often runs out of food by the end of the day, receives food donations from the Colchester Food Bank every two weeks as well as fresh produce from the Sustain by Cultiv8 vegetable garden also on campus.  

“Before our food drive, we probably filled one shelf – now we are completely stocked,” explained Alexe.  About 85 per cent of the food on our shelves is from the food drive.”

However, donors do not need to wait for an organized food drive.  

“We leave a box in the MacRae Library at all times, or you can leave a bag on the Pantry door,” explained Emma. “If you wish to donate perishable food items, we will gladly come to you to pick it up.”  

Emma began volunteering with the Pantry last year.

“I grew up in Ontario in a low-income single mother home, so we used food banks when I was growing up,” she said.  “This is something that resonates with me so I’m here.  Its reliable and its important to me.”

In addition to providing food to students on campus, there is a lot of educational work being done providing information and education about preparing meals with ingredients that are most affordable, food waste, best before dates and more with the overall mission of reducing food insecurity in the campus community.

“Alexe is the one on the ground here organizing food, working with other organizations, budgeting, and promoting this resource on campus.  It’s a lot and we are working to have this become a paid student position. There is so much she is doing.”

Alexe grew up in Newfoundland where there are a lot of problems with food insecurity.

“First because of our soil and we are an island – a lot of product gets shipped in,” she explained.  “I’ve always had an interest in food security and when I came here and the Food Pantry was looking for volunteers, I signed up!”

Alexe has taken on the Food Pantry as her main responsibility - allowing one point of contact and much needed continuity.

The Food Security Project

The Food Security Project — a Giving Tuesday initiative, will also play a vital role in helping to keep the Food Pantry functioning well for the year to come.

Now in its fourth year, the Food Security Project is a province-wide movement, with post-secondary communities across Nova Scotia rallying to meet the urgent needs of students. With generous matching support from the J & W Murphy Foundation, the project has exceeded its goal for four years running. This year’s campaign raised $72,500 that will be shared between the Dalhousie Students’ Union Food Bank and the AC Food Pantry – an amount that will offset most operating costs for the Food Pantry for the year.   

“Rotaract club members are demonstrating extraordinary leadership,” noted Justin Fox, director Student Success at Dal AC. “The AC Food Pantry started small and has grown in reach and purpose following the transition from a staff-led initiative to student-led,” he added.  “Students represent a specific vulnerable population, so it is so meaningful to have this resource on campus.”

Other ways to support the Food Pantry

Supplies are always in demand, please keep this in mind when maintaining your own kitchens over the holidays.
 Egg cartons
Mason jars
Sandwich bags and large size freezer bags
Reusable shopping bags

Top 10 nonperishable food items including:
Peanut butter
dried or canned beans/lentils
canned soup
canned vegetables
individually wrapped snacks including granola bars/Bearpaws/instant noodles
pasta and pasta sauce
canned fish/meat
cooking essentials such as sugar, salt, and oil

For those wishing to volunteer please contact Emma Smith or Alexe Indigo