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A close look at food insecurity at Queen’s

Working group releases final report and recommendations for addressing food insecurity for students.

Queen’s has released a final report and recommendations after looking into food insecurity within the university community.

Established in June 2019 by Interim Provost and Vice-Principal Tom Harris, the Food Insecurity Working Group was tasked with reviewing available data, evaluating current trends, and scanning current practices related to food insecurity at Queen’s. The working group, chaired by Corinna Fitzgerald, Assistant Dean, Student Life and Learning, included staff and student representatives. The group consulted with community partners and subject matter experts to inform their report and recommendations.

Among the working group’s findings is that those most affected by food insecurity at Queen’s tend to be female-identified graduate students with family responsibilities. The working group also identified that food insecurity is a symptom of the bigger problem of poverty, and that Canadian post-secondary institutions’ understanding of the prevalence of student food insecurity is continuing to evolve.

The working group identified five strategic priority areas to help address food insecurity at Queen’s: education and awareness; environment; community; skills building; and policy.

“I'm pleased to be able to release the report of the Food Insecurity Working Group,” Provost Harris says. “I established this working group after reading media reports on food insecurity, and in particular food insecurity on university campuses. I felt that we needed to know more about the situation at Queen’s. In January, I will form an implementation group to act on the recommendations outlined in the report. I want to express my thanks to the members of the working group for their commitment to learning more about this important issue.”

Mikayla Sebesta (Artsci’19), a Student Experience Assistant and working group member, helped draft the report and took part in an environmental scan of the programs and services that focus on food insecurity at Queen’s. The scan highlighted existing programs and services that help students access food, including the Swipe it Forward Program, which allows students with a meal plan to donate meals to anonymous students in need. The scan also identified that the university offers several free cooking classes, budgeting classes, and regular events that offer free food for students.

At the same time, the university continues to develop ways to increase financial aid for students in need, such as the Promise Scholars program, and the recently launched Promise Campaign.

Sebesta adds that by taking part in the project she was able to gain a valuable, inside view of the Queen’s community.

“Through taking part in the working group I was able to experience the collaboration happening on campus to address food insecurity,” she says. “Through reviewing data I learned of the prevalence of food insecurity on campus, and through conversations with campus partners I learned of the work being done to mitigate the experiences of food insecurity, including Swipe it Forward and the AMS Food Bank. Most importantly, I learned that there is still more work to be done, and the importance of continuing conversations about food insecurity on campus. I believe that the recommendations made in the report reflect this, and provide a strong stepping stone for this work to be continued.”

The Food Insecurity Working Group’s final report is available on the website of the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic)