Abuse of food bank for students called case of few ruining it for everyone else

Mikey Callahan gets an apple from the student support services food bank at Holland College in Charlottetown on Oct. 31. Letre Sweeting photo.

By Letre Sweeting

Nov. 2, 2016

Rex Charlton was upset when he saw comments on Facebook telling international students to stop abusing the food bank at Holland College.

But Ross Young says it’s a case of a few students ruining it for many. Young is a manager in the international office at the college.

Student Support Services works with the student union to run the food bank at the Prince of Wales campus and the Culinary Centre in Charlottetown. It offers students in need basic supplies and food.

But on Facebook, Young said a small number of international students were going to both food banks and consistently emptying the bank.

The service was not meant to be a free grocery store for a small number of students who think it is OK to take all the supplies, he said on Facebook.

“Changes will have to be made in the distribution of food from this program so all our students can benefit when in need.”

But Charlton said it seemed Young didn’t think international students were in need.

“I feel hurt. If you don’t have any proof like cameras or something, how can you prove that it was international students?”

He occasionally went to the food bank when he couldn’t afford to do anything else, he said.

“They came in handy when I was having a bad day.”

Now, he feels differently about the service, said Charlton.

“I feel as if I shouldn’t touch it.”

He is a second-year international hospitality management student from the Bahamas. He works as a resident life advisor at the college residence in exchange for free residency, so he has no time to get a part-time job, he said.

But they have run into a problem.

Young said in an interview his focus is helping international students find work on the Island, so they don’t have to use the food bank often.

“It’s not just international students taking the food, domestic students do it as well, and the majority of our students in need aren’t getting any.

“I saw one boy go up and take eight bars of soap. That means there are seven other people who don’t’ get any and that’s not right.”

He dealt with international students. Someone else spoke to the domestic students on the issue, he said.

“The student union, they deal with the domestic students on a one-on one basis. ”

Katy Barnes is a vice president of the student union. Nationality is not a deciding factor in whether students in need get help, she said.

“I couldn’t afford groceries for a couple of days. Who was to say I couldn’t utilize the food bank.

“If you’re not in need and you have groceries at home, you shouldn’t be taking away from students who might actually need the service, but it’s not our right to say who needs and who doesn’t deserve it.”

The service is not being cancelled. It operates on an honour system, it’s there to look after need, and organizers trust students to respect this, she said.