Humber’s student union, IGNITE, has thoroughly researched and addressed the issue of food insecurity of students with initiatives like the popular pay-what-you-can Soupbar.
“The first time I used Soupbar was a day I forgot my debit card at home,” said Erika Johnson, IGNITE Student Engagement Coordinator and third-year Public Relations advanced diploma student.
“Luckily, Soupbar was set up at the Lakeshore campus that day and I had some change in my pocket. A good, hearty lunch for a fraction of the cost of the average meal really saved me after a long morning of classes.”
Food insecurity doesn’t just address hunger –it also references access to nutritious food. Johnson has a part-time job which doesn’t quite cover all the costs she incurs as a student and high-quality food is sometimes too expensive.
She’s not alone.
In their 2018 IGNITE Food Security Survey, some students identified not being able to pay for any of the food offered on campus, which is a common issue for post-secondary students. About 15 per cent of college students in Canada cut or skip meals because they don’t have any money for food.
Prior to campus closure in March, IGNITE ran Soupbar at Humber’s North Campus. It was a popular initiative by IGNITE, Humber College and the not-for-profit organization Feed it Forward.
Each day, students could receive a bowl of nutritious, fresh soup, made by students in the culinary lab for a pay-what-you-can donation.
Then the pandemic happened and IGNITE responded with innovation.
Many food providers on campus were closed due to the reduced number of students and staff on the premises, but those students who return to campus to complete program requirements still needed access to food.
Enter the soup freezers, a joint initiative by IGNITE , Campus Services, Sustainability, and the Faculty of Business.
Food security success
The student union purchased two new freezers with support from Campus Services - one for each campus, expanding the initiative to include Lakeshore campus.
The freezers are stocked with one-litre containers of frozen soup, made with food from the culinary labs, just like the hot Soupbar. The flavours rotate every week and each soup is packed with nutrients.
The containers hold more than one serving and can easily fit into a backpack to be carried home. All soups have ingredients listed on the packaging.
“Despite not having a physical presence on campus, it was crucial for us to still do our part in addressing food insecurity,” said Johnson.
“I think IGNITE did a great job at adapting to the current circumstances.”
Faculty of Business Associate Dean Rudi Fischbacher spearheaded the project from the culinary side and has been coordinating production and distribution with IGNITE. He has even received food donations from the community, including complete frozen meals, which have been added to the freezers.
The soup freezers have another benefit. The initiative reduces food waste by making use of food that would have stocked the now-closed, faculty-run businesses like Food Express and The Humber Room.
The food-security program has already seen success: In the first week of operation, Fishbacher and IGNITE staff stocked the freezers with 300 soups. On Friday, there were just 20 left.
IGNITE and Humber are planning future food insecurity initiatives to gain a better understanding of the circumstances and needs of students. Connect and share your stories at firstname.lastname@example.org.