According to recent statistics released by the Canadian Federation of Students-Quebec, over 35 per cent of Quebec’s university students live below the poverty line.
Student poverty is a reality that many students live with but that few talk about.
Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard aims to change that. The organization is the initiative of the Concordia Multi-Faith Chaplaincy. Every Thursday evening they serve hot and nutritious vegan meals to Concordia students and their families for a small donation.
“We want to offer people nutritious meals and also teach them how to cook healthy food at a low cost,” said Katja Philipp, the co-ordinator of Mother Hubbard’s. “People tend to eat, because they have no money, these 99 cent pizza pieces, but this is not healthy. We want to give them a choice.”
Every week she tries to come up with interesting ways to cook for dozens of students at a low cost. Mother Hubbard’s relies entirely on donations to subsidize the price of the meals they provide. Students who eat at Mother Hubbard’s are encouraged to contribute one or two dollars if they can afford it, but students are never turned away or refused a meal if they are unable to donate.
Although the weekly meal is what the organization is most recognized for, many students come not for the food, but for the sense of community and the open discussions that are prized by those at Mother Hubbard’s.
“Everyone is welcome at mother Hubbard’s, some people come because they might not be able to afford anything else and others come because they like the food and they like the people,” said Philipp.
“They [Mother Hubbard’s] provide a great service to students who might not otherwise have enough money to get by,” said David, 24, who graduated from Concordia last spring. “I like Mother Hubbard’s so much that I keep coming back here because of the people.” He said that the people he met at the weekly dinner helped ease the stigma he felt was attached to student poverty.
The social importance of Mother Hubbard’s is amplified for students who are new to Montreal. Abel Martinez is from Mexico City. When he arrived here in September, he did not know anyone. “I saw a poster and that is how I knew about this place,” he said during a recent visit to Mother Hubbard’s.
“It [Mother Hubbard’s] allows you to meet other kinds of people that you might not get to know through your daily routine.”
For Teresa, a graduate student from Vancouver, the sense of community provided by Mother Hubbard’s is an essential part of her week.
“Although I live in a nice place with a landlady, we have different schedules so I eat alone, it is awful,” she said. “On a Thursday night I can come here and meet people. Having a meal together with someone is very significant to me, it gives me what I consider a sense of community.”
Katja Philipp and the volunteers from Mother Hubbard’s serve dinner on Thursday nights from 5 to 7 p.m. at Annex Z located at 2090 Mackay St. They will be closed over the holidays, but will resume their regular serving schedule at the beginning of the winter semester.