Student diets reflect flaws in OSAP

To shed light on the funding gaps in the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), seven students across the province participated in the recent Food For Thought Campaign. The campaign, run by the Ontario Undergraduate Students Alliance (OUSA), required participants to live on OSAP’s food allocation of $7.50 per day from March 8 to 26.

Nick Gibson, a participant from Wilfrid Laurier University, reflected on the difficulties of maintaining a nutritious diet while on the restrictive budget.

“When I really crunched the numbers and the servings according to the Canadian Food Guide, I was not even close [to meeting the requirements], and those were days that I thought I was doing pretty well,” said Gibson.

While he managed to meet some of his daily requirements, Gibson noted that there was definitely a lack in important food groups.

“My biggest problem by far was fruits and vegetables. For someone my age I need to get about eight servings per day and oftentimes I was getting in around four or less,” explained Gibson.

Although the difficulties of the diet were apparent, it is a reality that Gibson has become accustomed to, as he is already reliant on OSAP to pay for his schooling.

“I’ve been living like this for a while, so it’s sort of ingrained into my soul,” said Gibson.

Making people aware of what a student goes through when living on OSAP is exactly what OUSA had in mind with the campaign.

“Our goal ultimately was to draw attention to a lot of the problems of the OSAP program and some of the challenges that we as students face,” said Dan Moulton, president of OUSA.

According to Moulton, Gibson’s experience was quite similar to the other students participating in the campaign.

“It wasn’t an easy experience to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle on so little food and nutrition per day,” he said.

Both Moulton and Gibson believe that the campaign was an overall success in drawing attention to the fact that the OSAP food allowance, among other aspects of the system, are inadequate for the student lifestyle.

“A lot of people realized I was doing it and I think that people had at least a chance to think about what it was like,” said Gibson.