For some Langara students, fresh produce is out of reach

Some students are heavily dependent on canned food


By Virender Singh

Many Langara students say they are having a harder time finding fresh vegetables and fruits due to inflation raising the cost of groceries.

Students say they are depending on canned or frozen foods because they are more affordable and easier to store. According to the latest figures from Statistics Canada, fresh vegetables cost 10.8 per cent more this September compared to last year.

Students can find help from their schools

Gail Hammond, the program co-director for food, nutrition and health at the University of British Columbia, encourages food insecure students to use resources like the community cupboard at Langara or meal-share program at UBC.

“There are resources available,” Hammond said. “But it is about making the connection with students who may be reluctant to actually use those resources.”

There are approximately 400 students registered for the community cupboard at Langara to receive free groceries.

Joyz Leung, a member of the Sustainability Club at Langara College, said that she gets a monthly bag of groceries from the community cupboard.

“I received many cans, which are mostly high in sodium and pre-packaged fruits, which are high in sugar,” Leung said. “I feel like, especially during the pandemic, fresh vegetables and produce are very important to foster our health.”

Leung suggested ideas to promote awareness about the community cupboard, such as putting up posters or discussing it at orientations.

Canned food can be nutritious

Hammond said that some concerns regarding canned food are misguided.

“While we would like to see a lot of whole food consumption, some of the canned or frozen products can be just as nutritious,” Hammond said.

She said draining and rinsing canned food helps reduce the high sodium content.

“Dietary diversity is a really important concept,” Hammond said. “So not always relying on canned foods but trying to have some fresh produce is also a good idea.”

Veronica Angela, a computer science student at Langara, said she applied for the community cupboard program for the first time this month.

“For this food to have the most shelf life, they have to offer canned foods,” Angela said. “That’s OK, because we are getting it for free anyway.”

Taking advantage of the community cupboard

Another way that programs such as the community cupboard help is by making grocery shopping more accessible.

“In graduate school, there’s a high demand for your time to be in the lab, or working on your research,” Hammond said. “It takes time away from going off campus and getting groceries at grocery stores.”

Jagan Prasad, a student of kinesiology at Langara, said he wants to see more essential items like bread or rice in the bag he gets from the community cupboard.

“I don’t use much canned food,” Prasad said. “So, I usually buy vegetables from stores, like Superstore and Walmart.”

The community cupboard on Langara’s main campus is situated in the B Building at room B027. Applications for this program are available on the Langara website

UBC food and nutrition professor Gail Hammond explains that most frozen food can be just as nutritious as fresh food.

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