Hundreds Walk Out of UBC Classes to Demand University Action Against Food Insecurity

Hundreds of students walked out of class at the University of British Columbia on Friday afternoon to tell the university it needed to do more to address food insecurity.

The protest came after sustained criticism from students who say the university has cut funding for food safety programs and students are struggling to cope with the increased cost of food.

Students at the event, which was hosted by UBC Sprouts Food Cooperativepointed out that the university has an endowment of more than $2.8 billion, but some students are struggling to survive.

“People I know spend up to $800 a month [on food] »said Nick van Gruen, one of the students who walked out. « I don’t buy food on campus just because it’s too expensive. I just ruled that out for myself. »

According to UBC Sprouts, more than a thousand people left classes on Friday. (Corey Bullock/CBC)

A report from the Alma Mater Society (AMS) said visits to the AMS food bank had increased nearly 500 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels, as rising costs continue to hit students hard.

A statement of UBC Sprouts released ahead of the protest said the university’s funding for food security programs has dropped 83% in the current academic year compared to 2021/22.

Co-op co-chair Gizel Gedik said she wants the university to restructure the way funding decisions are made.

“It relies very heavily on the perspective of UBC leadership and paid consensus, rather than community members and students,” she told show host Stephen Quinn. from CBC. The first edition.

« We are asking students and staff in general to join in the food safety work. »

Gedik says walkout, and an open letter they circulated beforehandare the last resort for students to force the hand of the university and increase funding for food security programs.

The first edition5:45UBC student walkout for food safety this Friday

This Friday, the Sprouts grocery store and coffee shop run by UBC volunteers is staging a student strike for food safety. The presidents of UBC Sprouts join us in explaining why they are doing « Hungry for Change ».

The university has been the subject of criticism before

In early September, UBC came under fire following an email to alumni asking for a $10 donation to help food-insecure students.

« As a member of our UBC alumni family, would you be willing to donate $10 to the UBC Meal Sharing Program? » the email said, quoting Ainsley Carry, vice president of students at UBC.

« Your gift will buy a student breakfast and show them they’re part of a community that cares. »

A student protester holds up a placard that reads
UBC had previously been criticized for not properly funding its food security programs and asking alumni for donations to help food-insecure students. (Corey Bullock/CBC)

The email said more than 35% of undergraduate students at UBC’s Point Gray campus and 40% at UBC Okanagan faced food insecurity.

« You see a lot of students taking two or three part-time jobs, » said Eshana Bhangu, president of AMS, at the time.

« Food insecurity hasn’t gone down, so when you increase funding one year and the next year it goes back to what it was before, it just doesn’t work. »

UBC commits to increase funding

Andrew Parr, UBC’s associate vice president of student housing, said Friday the university is increasing funding for its food security programs by $500,000 this year.

Fifteen percent of that funding — $75,000 — will go to programs at UBC Okanagan and $425,000 will go to programs at UBC Vancouver.

In addition to donating $145,000 to the AMS Food Bank, Sprouts will receive an additional $30,000 and the Meal Sharing Program will receive an additional $210,000. Previously, the only university money going to the food bank was a $25,000 donation from the president’s office.

Parr disputed criticism that funding had been cut for food security programs, saying the 2021/22 budget figures had been boosted by one-time pandemic funding and funding had returned to pre-levels. the pandemic instead of being reduced.

« We are currently exploring long-term funding to provide continued and stable support for food security needs, » he said.

Gedik says the funding is not sustainable and would not last beyond the year.

« We believe the money is one-time funding and does not meet our demands, » she said after the protest.

« It feels like silent money because UBC wants the problem to go away. »


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