09/17/2014 12:40 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 00:55 EDT

University Students and Grads Are Using Food Banks More Than Ever

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
WHITBURN, SCOTLAND - MARCH 07: A Stuart Little volunteer grabs to pack at a food bank on March 7, 2014 in Whitburn, Scotland. Charities based in Scotland are reporting that many families are living in poverty having to turn to food banks, and are struggling to heat their homes and clothe their children and themselves. The Trussell trust runs a network of foodbanks throughout the UK, giving emergency food to people in crisis. In the past year demand has risen in Scotland and the rest of the UK. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

It's that time of year again, summer is almost a memory and children are heading back to school. Some students dread the first day of school, while others can't wait for new adventures, and to see the friends they've missed. For over 130,000 Ontario children back to school often comes as a welcome relief to the daily struggle of trying to find a healthy, nourishing breakfast.

The Ontario Association of Food Banks' network includes 125 direct member food banks that support over 300 breakfast clubs across the province. These clubs ensure that students have access to a balanced breakfast to help them focus on school instead of their growling bellies. Many of our member food banks also offer additional support through lunch and snack programs, backpack programs, and helping children obtain back-to-school essentials such as binders, paper, and stationary.

The need for food support does not, however, stop with students under the age of 18. Post-secondary and recent university graduates are one of the fastest growing groups of food bank users across the province. With growing tuition rates, on campus living accommodations, and money for textbooks it's no surprise the wallets of students are being stretched to the limits.

When school ends, many graduating students find it difficult to find jobs. This means many graduates have no other choice but to pursue part-time work at minimum wage, while they continue to apply for entry level positions within their chosen field. The Canadian Federation of Students reported last year that the average student in Ontario graduates university with $28,000 of debt. Oftentimes, this results in graduates, as well as current college or university students, having no other choice but to turn to food banks between pay periods or to help off-set their cost of living.

While our food banks work tirelessly to provide fresh, healthy food to Ontario's students throughout the year, hungry students are a symptom of a much larger issue. It is a symptom of poverty in our communities, of high tuition fees, precarious employment, and of an economy based on growing debt.

This school year, we strongly encourage the Ontario government to take an active role in addressing the root causes of hunger and ask why so many students have no other choice but to go hungry each and every day.

To support your local food bank, please visit:

By Mila Parthemos, Communications Specialist at the Ontario Association of Food Banks