Food Security among Dalhousie Students
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This concluding report explores the progression of an investigation into the vitality of the Dalhousie Student Union Food bank (DSUFB). Located in basement of the Dalhousie Student Union Building, the DSUFB offers food aid to anyone on campus. Food security is broadly defined as having physical, social, and economic access to sufficient quantities of safe and nutritious food to meet dietary needs for a healthy life (Lammers et al., 2009), however definitions can vary. In the context of Canada, food security includes physical access to affordable and appropriate food, retail venues, sufficient income, and that people can obtain food in a dignified manner (Dowler & Connor, 2012). Prior to data collection, we undertook preliminary research to get a background for what food security meant in various cases. We rationalized our study by exploring what food security was, how it is connected to sustainability, why it is now a prominent issue, and how Dalhousie University fits into the larger issue of food insecurity. Our investigation stems from two questions. (1) What barriers to food security have necessitated student’s use of the food bank? (2) What actions can the university take to increase food security on campus? Methodology of research included an 18-question survey administered to users outside the food bank doors, and an analysis of demographic data collected by the food bank over the past year. The survey consisted of a variety of question types (both qualitative and quantitative), designed to gain information about the food bank users, why they utilized the resource, and what could be done to improve the food bank for their benefit. With a sample population consisting of solely Dalhousie students who use the DSUFB, non-probabilistic sampling was used. The vulnerability of this food insecure population required us to be cautious in our approach. For this reason, each survey was anonymous to protect the privacy of participants. Based off a sample of 22 answered surveys, our findings concluded that the majority of users learned about the service via word of mouth. Our starkest finding was the overrepresentation of international students and Transition Year Program Students. As a result recommendations for improvement were made, including the need for better visibility and increased frequency of advertising throughout campus. Additionally, Dalhousie should voluntarily cap tuition to ease burden on students and make targeted needs-based grants available to vulnerable students.