UBC Vancouver students face food insecurity, GVFB intervenes

UBC students are hungry and there is not enough to go around.

Last week, UBC sent schoolchildren an email stating that over 35% of undergraduates on the Vancouver campus “report that they do not have constant access to the food they need to stay healthy.”

The email encouraged alumni to donate to the UBC Meal Share program, a community-funded initiative that provides free and greatly discounted food to students. The program is currently closed but will reopen in October and is one of several food support services on campus, which are experiencing record high demand and struggling to keep up.

Food insecurity is a public health problem and is defined as inadequate or inconsistent access to food due to financial constraints. And this most recent involuntary request and admission by UBC did not agree with many people who criticized the university’s handling of the situation.

Cynthia Boulter, COO of the Greater Vancouver Food Bank, which funds and supports many of the campus food resources, says UBC is not the only university in Canada facing this problem. She says international students are the hardest hit because they are limited to a 20-hour workweek due to visa constraints and that they typically don’t generate enough income to keep up with the cost of living in Vancouver.

Additionally, he heard from international students that Canadian exchange rates and strict rules on professional qualifications are also contributing to food insecurity and financial hardship. Boulter also says that graduate students make up a large amount of food bank users because they are unable to balance paid work with the needs of their research.

The food bank AMS, funded in part by the president’s office ($ 25,000) and AMS ($ 90,000), contacted the GVFB when they ran out of food and cash donations in June. Boulter says he met with UBC representatives last week to make recommendations on what can be improved.

GVFB’s suggestions included more space to run the AMS and expand food storage and a refrigerated truck or van so that the AMS food bank can collect fresh food safely for food. The GVFB has also offered to use its purchasing power to purchase groceries on behalf of UBC to help the money stretch further as the GVFB is able to purchase certain items at two-for-one, sometimes more, prices.

Boulter says, however, that AMS is not yet in a positive enough position to be an official partner of the GVFB, but has linked them with the Acadia Food Hub, another on-campus initiative run by Origins Church which is a partner of GVFB.

GVFB supplied Acadia Food Hub with over 186,000 pounds of food worth $ 600,000 and purchased industrial-sized refrigerators so they had somewhere to store it.

A university spokesperson told VIA that during the pandemic, funding for food security initiatives was boosted with a one-off infusion last fiscal year “in recognition of the unique and extraordinary challenges associated with COVID.” This year UBC has allocated $ 325,000 for food support, including the Meal Share program, the low-cost food market, the Sprouts, Agora and Acadia food baskets, although many of these groups appear to be closed at this time. They also have $ 700,000 in student financial aid available for students suffering from food insecurity.

During the pandemic, UBC funded and managed the Acadia children’s program through the Food Hub, but it is now a community project also led by the early Church. Acadia receives a $ 5,000 grant from the GVFB in addition to monthly food deliveries and awards the money to the baby supplies program.

He suggests the university is under fire because “when there are active articles out there about multimillion dollar buildings that UBC is building across the province on their campuses, it may be difficult for people to reconcile that with asking to contribute a share of. meals schedule, “and confesses that he feels the same thing. “I just can’t understand the fact that UBC is potentially leaning on a charity twice to feed their students and, at the same time, I see articles about multimillion-dollar buildings on the rise.”

Boulter hopes last week’s meeting will help create a more robust coordinated food safety system on campus and says he has his fingers crossed, “the third time is a spell.”

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