The stigma of using a college/university food bank

by Claire Matlock

While our workload rises and snow falls, everyone hunkers into the season with a warm sweater and, hopefully, some comforting food. However, the reality for many students on a budget is the exclusion from seasonal traditions such as pumpkin spice lattes, or a roasted turkey. As a food writer, I understand the importance of food in punctuating holidays. Those students unable to afford its physical and emotional satiation should not be afraid to utilize their university’s food bank.

Certainly, we know how popular our larger municipality’s food banks are, so why aren’t more students using the ones provided on campus? Perhaps you’re afraid of stigmas. Perhaps you don’t want your friends to judge you. Perhaps you don’t want you to judge you. The truth is, it’s okay to accept help. Donations are a beautiful gift from those around you and as students—a demographic known to struggle financially—there is no shame in receiving free food. Simply ask yourself: “Do I need help?” If you can answer yourself with a genuine “Yes,” then go for it! Being a student of humility is one of life’s greatest lessons and we’re in the business of learning.

The next step is what to cook with your non-perishable items. Canned beans and pasta have a false reputation for being bland. Fear not! I have survived, rather thrived my university career on rice and legumes. They’re easy, cheap, readily available, a complete source of protein, and as a bonus, fit the bill for a wide variety of diets. In fact, “poor man’s” dishes, like pasta puttanesca, polenta and rice pilaf have made a comeback into the world of gourmet cuisine. If you have a pot of boiling water and a hot pan with a splash of oil, you can create some seriously tasty food. Traditional winter dishes like chilis, soups and veggie burgers rely on canned ingredients. Meanwhile dried spices such as sage, rosemary, thyme, and cinnamon naturally lend an seasonal flavour to any dish. And for dessert, why not create a fruit crumble? In a casserole dish, spoon some canned fruit onto the bottom, then top with a mixture of dried oats, a little sugar, some butter or oil and a dash of cinnamon. Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes, let cool and serve.

Canned Food Thanksgiving Dish (1)
Canned goods made holiday-ready

Once you’re enjoying delicious food, you won’t regret visiting the food bank. And, if you’re still worried about accepting help then think about what you would do if you needed help writing a paper or studying for an exam. There are tutors on campus to bridge those gaps. So if you need help affording groceries, then don’t be afraid to bridge that gap as well.