Student food networks are nestled under the umbrella of alternative food systems as a whole. Student food networks have a variety of definitions, utilizing various resources and support systems to continue to move forward in supporting the student population. In this essay it will be discussed which alternative food systems are available to students and how they manifest in the student population. Additionally, we will look at the priorities of students in this current sphere. In particular we will be analyzing the food system of white women who live off campus and who do not have a meal plan. We will look at how the food system manifests in this specific demographic of students and which resources they utilize the most.
The survey was conducted in and around the Student Union Building, on a population of white females. The results that were gathered were interesting; it found that majority of students lived with roommates off campus and did not have a meal plan. The vast majority of students noted that they normally ran out of food by the middle or end of the week. A large portion of students utilized resources such as family members, friends, or credit cards to supplement for this food shortage. When answering the question about whether they ever utilized the on campus Dalhousie Student Union Food Bank or the Loaded Ladle, most of their responses were minimal to only a couple times during the semester. This could be related to the fact that they are part of a demographic that is not used to being marginalized, therefore are not aware of the resources that are available to them. Alternative food networks such as food banks or soup kitchens were historically created to offset white privilege starting in the colonial era (Guthman",2008). Due to the initial racialization around this concept of alternative food networks, it has created a stigmatization around the type of people that go to food banks and soup kitchens. This supposed stereotype is historically, an underprivileged person of a minority ethnic background (Guthman, 2008). It can be seen and has been documented that even in white populations exercising anti-racialization practises, the program’s outcome can still be interpreted only for marginalized groups (Guthman, 2008). This outcome is due to the entrenchment of racialized history in the creation of alternative food practises in our society of the global north. In a research paper conducted in 2008, it was found that in order to understand how racialization or marginalization occurs, one needs to understand and experience it for themselves (Guthman",2008). The racialization of stereotypes and stigmatization is deeply manifested into society and even onto a campus as diverse as Dalhousie. In the wake of this deep manifestation, it can be seen that the subjects that I surveyed tend to think that they themselves are undeserving of these resources due to their ethnic background. In Guthman’s findings, it was noted that one of the reasons implementation of various alternative food projects do not hold is because of the stigma attached to the word alternative (Guthman",2008). Perhaps the term “alternative” as a whole needs to be replaced with another more inclusive word or just eroded in general. This stereotype of racialization needs to be deconstructed because of how diverse our campus of Dalhousie is, therefore, we all come from different places and all are deserving of the resources on campus.
In the question, “Do you prioritize other costs over food?”, it can be observed to have varied responses. The subjects that answered “Yes” to the question provided minute answers such as, coffee or clothing, to massive answers such as, gas money or tuition. The fact that students are taking money out of their food fund which nourishes their minds, to pay for tuition fees or transportation is ridiculous. Students should not be forced to make the decision between whether they buy groceries that week or go to school, it should be a combination. This combination would allow then to lead a healthy and balanced life. This issue needs more attention, in all sectors of the situation. The government should do more for their Canadian students in policy or government funding in any type of capacity. Furthermore, the government and the university should be made more aware of the drastic choices that students are having and willing to make in sacrifice for their education.
Ultimately, there are multiple things that can be done to combat this ongoing issue of food insecurity facing university students today. This issue is not resolved by just one actor in the equation; everyone plays a part and does something to help reach the ultimate goal. The actors involved include: the government, the universities and the students themselves. The government should be made aware of the consequences that the students are making of their health for their education to be informed, productive and proud Canadian citizens. The university, while having the resources to combat student food insecurity, needs to do more work to end stigmatization and marginalization of who requires and utilizes these resources. Furthermore, Canadian university students need to continue to speak out and advocate for their needs, whether that be food security, stigmatization, tuition fees or mental health. It all matters at the end of the day because it is affecting the student population as a whole.