The UBC Okanagan campus Health and Wellness department conducted a “Voice 4” survey in 2016-17, polling 3636 students. According to the data that they collected, 42.3% of students at UBC Okanagan report low to very low food security, a trend that is replicated across other Canadian post-secondary institutions and is significantly higher than the approximately 13% reported across the general Canadian population. Food insecurity is a gateway to deterioration of mental and physical health, both of which have an adverse impact on the students’ ability to learn.
“As students ourselves, we understand this challenge that many of our peers face.” Says Romil Jain, President of the UBC Okanagan Students’ Union. “We will do what we can to play a proactive role in helping to combat this challenge, as we incorporate the food bank into the Student Union portfolio and run it for the students, by the students."
The Food Exchange program has operated for many years under the guidance of the Student Experience Office, with the assistance of the Lake Country Food Assistance Society and campus partners such as the library and parking services, both of which offer a “Food for Fines” food drive. The program provided two service delivery mechanisms to get food to students – a self-serve food shelf and fridge, and a hamper program.
Under the Students’ Union, the program will be re-branded as “Pantry” and will be located in UNC131. It will operate very similarly to how it was in the past, with the only change being more product stocked on the shelves as a matter of course and a re-vamped hamper program. Students should see a relatively seamless transition, and in fact should find it easier to access food when needed.
Food insecurity on campus can manifest itself in several ways. Perhaps the student cannot easily access transportation to a grocery store, or maybe their cultural cuisine is not available on campus. For some, dietary preferences and/or restrictions may limit the options available to them, and for many it is a question of financial need. While Pantry will not be able to fix or even address some of these issues, the hope is that it will alleviate a tiny bit of this burden from students.
UBC Okanagan Students’ Union invites you to join us for a grand opening celebration and food drive Friday Oct 18, 2019 at 10:30am. We will gather on the first floor of the UNC for ribbon cutting, speeches, coffee and cake.