The AMS Food Bank experienced a spike in visits between February and March of this year.
The number of visits increased from 649 visits in February to 1,226 in March, according to an April 20 update from Student Services Manager Mitchell Prost. The food bank has seen higher demand this past academic year and during the pandemic, though visits have been steadily increasing since 2011.
The increase in visits to the food bank can be attributed to several factors, according to Prost.
He said end of term academic stress coupled with wider global insecurity may have played a role in the spike. He added this demand “relates to increasing unaffordability on campus.”
For Prost, speculation on the reasons for this increased demand is not as important as supporting those who visit the food bank.
As a result of increased visits, the AMS Food Bank has adjusted and expanded purchasing to match demand. Additionally, the AMS has been working with a variety of working groups and committees, including the Food Security Initiative (FSI).
While the AMS Food Bank addresses immediate food security-related concerns, UBC's Food Security Initiative aims to deal with both immediate and long-term issues.
Sara Kozicky, the project manager of the initiative, described the initiative’s approach as being two-pronged: preventative and supportive of students’ immediate needs. Preventative measures “allow people to have more access to income, whether it’s through reduced spending or more income coming in,” according to Kozicky.
Both Prost and Kozicky agree that programs like the Food Hub Market are crucial for alleviating the strain on the AMS Food Bank while working towards eliminating food insecurity on campus. The Food Hub Market was a nine-week pilot project that began in February and ended in April. Prost and Kozicky view the market as a less “stigmatized” alternative to the Food Bank by providing low-cost groceries.
“When you can buy something, even though it’s extremely subsidized and either at cost or below cost of the goods, that can go a long way in decreasing stigma,” Prost said.
Currently, there are plans to reopen and relaunch the Food Hub Market. Kozicky did not specify a reopening date, but that the team is in the process of getting the budget approved and activated.
Kozicky and the FSI team are also hopeful that the Food Hub Market will serve as a base for the Community Food Hub — a physical space for students and community members to address food insecurity on campus. By centralizing different projects like the Agora Cafe, Sprouts and community fridges, Kozicky envisions the Community Food Hub as a way to coordinate food insecurity efforts across campus.
Though these initiatives have yet to be finalized, the AMS Food Bank remains a direct source of aid for students who are experiencing food insecurity.
The higher demand has placed a strain on the food bank’s capacity to support students, especially in terms of volunteers. Prost encouraged anyone who is interested in the food bank’s mission to volunteer.