Food insecurity is something that no one should have to face, but according to the BCIT Student Association Advocacy and Wellness Manager, Giovanna Catussi, it’s a sad reality for many students.
“Food insecurity has brutal implications on health and well-being,” says Giovanna. “Post-secondary students are exceptionally vulnerable, with over 50 percent of International and Domestic students at Canadian post-secondary institutions experiencing average to extreme levels of food insecurity.”
To help BCIT students experiencing food insecurity, the BCIT Student Association (BCITSA) offers a Food Support Hub. These services include several different avenues, including a Food Pantry and Community Fridge where students can access nutritional food items on a drop-in basis.
“The Food Pantry is an all-encompassing and low-barrier service that provides complimentary groceries for BCIT students, enhancing their sense of belonging within the community,” shares Giovanna.
She adds that as the cost-of-living increases, so does the demand for these services: “Last year, 1,931 BCIT students visited the BCITSA Food Pantry and connected with the Wellness Team to address mental health concerns related to food insecurity. Due to inflation, we have noticed an increase on the demand.”
This growing need inspired the BCIT Alumni Association to get involved.
BCIT Alumni Association inspired to help students succeed
To help bridge the gap between the increasing demand for the BCITSA’s food services, the BCIT Alumni Association has generously gifted $4,800 to the Food Pantry. This sponsorship equates to $400 in groceries per month, for the year, which helps stock the Food Pantry’s shelves with nutritious food for students.
“Studying is difficult enough; studying while hungry is often insurmountable,” says alum and BCIT Alumni Association Director Reshmeena Lalani. “The Food Pantry directly supports students in their education, and the Alumni Association wanted to be able to support that with this donation.”
Reshmeena adds the stigma around accessing food resources is unfortunate and unjustified: “When I was a student, many people close to me had to use the Food Bank and it wasn’t because they weren’t capable or didn’t have a job. Sometimes life is just challenging. Other things come up and you need that extra help.”
In addition to alumni support, the BCIT staff community have also stepped up. This winter, staff members across the institute participated in a Food Drive Challenge with the goal of collecting 100 lbs of food for the Pantry. The challenge surpassed the goal and raised an astounding 2,500 lbs of non-perishable goods for students in need.
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Impacting students and paying it forward
An anonymous student shared with the BCITSA the importance of being able to access food services during challenging times: “I think the Food Pantry is very helpful. I can focus more on studying and relaxing after classes and do not need to worry about not having money to afford groceries and pay other bills.”
From donating and volunteering on the board to hiring or mentoring a BCIT student, Reshmeena says there are many ways alumni can give back and encourages her alums to get involved: “Any way that alumni can give back is good. It makes sure that people who follow you have a better time … If you can add value after you’ve left, that’s just even more rewarding. It’s personally fulfilling.”
Read more about giving back to BCIT students
- Student recipients of 2022 BCIT Entrance Awards and Scholarships poised to become leaders of tomorrow
- After 9 years on the BCIT Alumni Association board, Kiel Landrigan shares why he gives back to BCIT
- Forging paths: $1M donation from Gene Haas Foundation paves the way for BCIT students through faculty like Indigenous Red Seal Machinist Chelsea Barron