In late August, multiple media outlets reported the opening of a food bank at Halifax’s St. Mary’s University as part of a nationwide trend of increasing need for food assistance programs at postsecondary institutions.

At UTM, statistics reported last April by the UTMSU Food Centre demonstrate a general increase in usage.

When comparing the number of times students have used the food centre’s resources, the report showed an increase to 41 visits to the food centre in last February, compared to 32 visits in February of the previous year. March also saw a significant increase as this year’s visits rose to 76, while last March had 54 member visits to the centre.

Last January, however, witnessed a drop compared to January 2014 from 47 visits to 29.

The latest statistics available on the UTMSU food centre usage go up until April of this year.

According to figures reported in UTMSU’s 2015/16 preliminary budget, UTMSU received $14,560.32 from the 2014/15 food centre levy, which charged both full-time andpart-time students $0.55 each.

After expenses for salaries and food, $5,581 was left unspent from the food centre levy.

As for UTMSU’s 2015/16 preliminary budget, the union expects to receive $14,851.53 from the food centre levy, which has been increased to $0.56 for both full-time and part-time students. The union is also budgeted to underspend by $1,801.53 this year.

Among financial changes at the food centre, UTMSU is budgeting to spend less on labour than it did last year, with a budget of $3,700, but more on food, allocating $9,000 for food purchases. Financials reported from the 2014/15 academic year report $4,500 spent on labour and $4,479.32 on food.

As reported last September by The Medium, unspent funding from the food centre levy returns to the union’s overall operating budget.

A draft of a new food centre constitution published on March 27, however, calls for the food levy revenue left at the end of the year to be used only for activities related to the centre. Specifically, it calls on the union to “allocate any money left over from the budget to a reserve for the food centre. Money in that reserve shall not be used for any purpose other than the food centre.”

The Medium was unable to verify as of press time whether the drafted constitution has been passed, or if last year’s food centre levy surplus was reallocated to the union’s operating budget.

Also reported last year by The Medium, UTM’s food centre faced challenges including lack of adequate space and equipment.

According to Vicky Jezierski, UTM’s director of hospitality and retail services, her department assisted the food centre in dealing with these issues following a presentation made earlier this year by former food centre coordinator Nourhan Afify to the Food Services Advisory Committee.

“Hospitality and Retail Services made the decision to help with the UTMSU [food centre],” said Jezierski. “We made arrangements to secure the food centre’s current location as well as to purchase the freezer and shelving units.”

The current food centre location is larger than the previous location, and is now found in the Davis Building, room 2102.