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Food bank in Canada closes its doors to int'l students

IANS | November 10, 2023 03:55 PM

TORONTO: Failing to meet an overwhelming demand for supplies, a food bank in the Canadian province of Ontario has said it is closing its door to international students.

Brampton-based Ste Louise Outreach Centre of Peel said it cannot provide enough food and other supplies to its customers as the number of foreign students turning up at the outlet has been soaring since September, the CBC news channel reported.

A food bank is a charitable organisation that collects safe, nutritious food, and redistributes it to individuals and families experiencing food insecurity.

The Daily Bread Food Bank's most recent annual report, found a 63 per cent year-over-year increase in use from July 2022 to June 2023.

"We get groups of three, four, sometimes nine, 10, with their backpacks ready for free stuff, we tell them, 'We can't feed you, you're responsible for yourself and your family', " Catherine Rivera, president of Ste Louise Outreach Centre of Peel, told CBC News.

Rivera said students are required to show funds for their first year before coming into Canada, and hence should not be relying on food banks.

In response, Vishal Khanna, co-founder of Sai Dham food bank in Etobicoke, said one should not assume students have the money to sustain themselves when cost of living is so high.

"Even average Canadians… a person who is making $60, 000 is still eating at our food bank, " Khanna, whose food bank serves 1, 500 students each morning from 57 colleges, told CBC.

Jindi Singh, national director of Khalsa Aid, called the move "quite disturbing" as some students are left with as little as $688 each month to cover food and other expenses.

"I wonder if they realise how difficult it is for international students, some of them who are heavily in debt... Showing up at a food bank is a last resort for people struggling during a cost of living crisis, " Singh said.

Singh told the news channel that Khalsa Aid has received numerous requests from international students struggling to find a job that offers them 20 hours a week.

Canada continues to grapple with a severe cost of living and housing crisis with nearly seven million people there struggling to put food on the table, according to a recently released Food Banks Canada report.

Recently, hundreds of international students, who had taken admission in colleges of North Bay in Ontario, reportedly demanded a full fee refund for lack of resources, which included housing, food and jobs.

The country welcomed more than 800, 000 international students last year, with the country on track to bring in 900, 000 international students in 2023, according to immigration minister Marc Miller.

According to Immigration Refugees, Citizenship of Canada (IRCC), international students contribute more than $22.3 billion per year to the Canadian economy.

Indian students account for nearly four out of every 10 foreign students.

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