Humber’s FLAS food bank tackles food insecurity on campus

May 24, 2024 | Campus News, GTA/Local News, News

Candace Iron, professor of Arts and Humanities at Humber College and an organizer of FLAS Grab ‘n Go Food Bank, hates the thought of her students coming to school hungry.

Following Student Appreciation Month in February, the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences provided free food days.

But Iron knew that there was more to be done. Food insecurity on campus could not be remedied after a few free food days, and as a result, the FLAS Food Bank was born.

“I asked the senior dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences, John Stilla, and fellow member of the Student Appreciation Committee, Marylou Diplacito, and the two of us thought why not try it,” Iron said.

small cart with pre-packaged food goods.

The FLAS Grab 'n Go Food Bank is located on the 5th floor LRC. Photo credit: Ciara Lalor-Lindo

Pre-packaged goods, ranging from granola to boxes of macaroni, the FLAS Grab n’Go pantry on the fifth floor of the Learning Resource Commons building, is a necessity on campus for those who may not know when their next meal may be, Iron said.

“Oftentimes people feel embarrassed to talk about food insecurity, so here they don’t have to,” Iron said. “Grab what you want and off you go. Take what you need.”

While this program has helped the Humber community in the two weeks it has been running, food insecurity appears to be significant as the cart empties, Iron said.

“We all have various needs, and I would venture to say that most of us will experience some type of economic or food insecurity,” she said.

This proves to be the case, according to the Who’s Hungry Report 2023 by the Daily Bread and North York Harvest food banks, which is reporting a 50 per cent increase in people who rely on food banks.

The report noted that those ranging from 19 to 44 years old are the fastest-growing demographic of food bank clientele.

With 68 per cent of the student body ranging from 19 to 25 years old, many members of the Humber community likely have or will continue to use food bank services.

Kevin Chin, a home base hub team lead with 360 Kids, said it’s important to have food services readily available to those in need.

“We encourage people to come and take what they will use,” Chin said.

He said 360 Kids helps youths aged 14 to 24, allowing them to pick from a pantry of food or the hot foods area for lunch and dinner seven days a week.

“The clients can come and have a meal without going into the pantry and thinking about what they have to cook if they have somewhere to cook,” Chin said.

He said 360 Kids can provide this variety of food goods through public donations and partnerships with companies like Second Harvest, Canada’s leader in perishable food redistribution.

Second Harvest utilizes surplus perishable foods and with the aid of food bank staff, those ingredients become hot meals to be distributed at non-profit organizations, like 360 Kids.

Meals like these provide a cushion for those who may also be houseless, allowing them to have two hot meals daily, Chin said.

While Humber does not have the backing of companies like Second Harvest, those running the FLAS Food Bank are hopeful for its future.

“Hopefully it’s something we can turn into something bigger and more sustainable going forward,” Iron said. “If we can help one person, that’s enough.”