No need to cook on Wednesdays because it’s Fernwood Student Dinner Night

›› Mila Czemerys

With a saddle of books on their hip, ­sprinting from a Biology lab to the bus loop to in hopes to swiftly arrive at their part-time job, followed up with sport team or band practice commitments in the ­evening, it is no wonder students can’t find the time to cook a meal at home. A ­generation ­burdened with more ­student debt than ever before (and earning the least) are the ones forking out the ­largest amounts of money on restaurant and on-the-go food than any other age ­demographic. Is this a product of lack of time, a lack of food skills or general ­interest? All we know is that food ­insecurity among students is on the rise, which is why we’re excited to offer support to the many students who live in the Fernwood neighbourhood and beyond.

Student Dinner Night is a mid-week relief to your cooking woes! Take a load off and join us for a home-cooked meal with your fellow youth community in the gym at the Fernwood ­Community Centre from 6-7:30pm every Wednesday night. Sit down for a delicious meal, listen to local live music, take a few ­groceries home, and potentially walk away with a few new friends. Twice a month, Student Dinner will be themed with an open-mic night, guest speakers, live music, or a fun group activity.

The idea spurred from ­frequenting “Church Dinner” at Emmanuel Church located kitty corner to ring road at UVic, which at one point deemed a weekly ­rendez-vous for students, has now evolved into a full blown quintessential UVic pastime. “Each week, students line up down the block to get access to a free meal,” says ­Fernwood NRG’s Food Access ­Coordinator, Alex Harned. “It’s a ­surprise we haven’t thought of this sooner. Every ­community needs a student dinner night, especially Fernwood. Students make up a significant population of folks residing in ­Victoria. So we’re just going to go for it and start one now.”

Fernwood NRG works with reclaimed food from various sources including the Food Rescue Project, operated by the ­Mustard Seed and organized by the Food Share ­Network wherein Thrifty Foods’ ­surplus and non-saleable items are ­distributed amongst non-profit organizations serving people ­facing food ­insecurity. Fernwood NRG is a member of the Coalition of Neighbourhood Houses where frozen meats, dairy products, produce and dried goods are ­generously sourced surplus from Sysco and Cold Star. “We are lucky to source almost 90% of the Student Dinner Night from reclaimed food sources. You are doing your part to divert edible food from landfill by eating at ­Fernwood once a week!” claims Alex. “More than anything, we count our lucky stars for our amazing Chef David Gillis at the Fernwood ­Community Centre, who is the linchpin to this whole ­operation. He can turn anything into almost everything! A box of almost-spoiling bananas into a tasty dessert, no ­problem. A bag of root veggies into a Thai coconut curry on rice, you got it!”

Drop by the Fernwood ­Community Centre gymnasium on Wednesday ­evenings to see what it’s all about.

We are looking for volunteers to help with Student Dinner, free meal included of course! If you’re interested, please contact Alex Harned, Food Access ­Coordinator at For more ­information on the program, please visit