Okanagan College business student Natasha Mangel used the Central Okanagan Community Food Bank when she needed a little extra help after paying tuition, rent and purchasing textbooks.
“It’s difficult to be living on your own as a young adult…especially the first few weeks of school, especially when you have to deal with tuition and food costs,” she said.
Mangel is also a Kelowna representative at the Okanagan College Students’ Union and said she, like many other students, is disciplined with her budget, but it’s not enough.
The student’s union has been working since 2009 to get a food bank at its campus in Kelowna and after nine years, the OCSU Pantry is open.
“School keeps getting more expensive, textbooks keep getting more expensive, the high rental costs are a huge thing. I think it’s getting harder and harder to be a student,” said Courtney Kindlein, an organizer with Okanagan College’s student union.
“At almost every one of our events we give out free food and every year we have to up the numbers because we run out so quickly and students tell us how much (they) appreciate it,” she said. “We do prizes at our events too and the first prize to go is always a grocery gift card.”
Tuition increases also aren’t helping students, she said.
Food donations are supplied by the Kelowna Community Food Bank, which also delivers food to the college.
“Many families here in the Central Okanagan can barely make ends meet on a monthly basis, then you add back to school costs to an already long list of expenses a family has and the stress can be overpowering,” said Lenetta Parry, executive director with the food bank.
“In response to a growing number of college students going hungry, we are assisting the Okanagan College, Kelowna campus with its own food pantry. Each week, we will fill the pantry with an assortment of non-perishable food donations. The pantry just opened and the school year just started so we will wait to see what the exact need is,” she said. “Student hunger is a real issue in our community and so, we as an organization, are doing what we can close the gap.”
Students can find the food bank at A149 and it’s open Mondays from 1 to 2 p.m. and 11-1 on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday depending on the week.