AMS Food Bank is growing with introduction of hygiene products and more fresh food

The AMS Food Bank is continuing to expand its operations as more students access it each year, with the introduction of more fresh food, hygiene products and new partnerships.

Since 2006, the Food Bank has provided thousands of UBC students in need with emergency food relief, budgeting advice and additional information about available resources within Vancouver.

The number of yearly visits to the Food Bank has increased steadily every year since its establishment. The year 2019 saw a total of 960 client visits, which is a 41 per cent increase from the previous year. The number is projected to rise to 1,350 by the end of this year.

At the AMS Council meeting on November 27, a motion was put forward to purchase a new fridge and freezer for the Food Bank. According to AMS Food Bank Coordinator Cali Schnarr, this has not only doubled the amount of storage space but also enhanced the quality of foods they provide.

“This year, it was a big goal for us to improve the nutritional quality of the meals so being able to have more fresh fruits, vegetables and perishable goods — products that can be difficult to find in typical food banks — has been extremely beneficial,” said Schnarr.

The Food Bank has also established a new hygiene section. The stock mainly consists of feminine hygiene products but basic need items such as soap, shampoo, toilet paper, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste are also readily available.

One concern that was brought up during the Council meeting was that the Food Bank’s operating times of Mondays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. were not sufficient to accommodate all those in need.

Schnarr responded that individuals whose schedules don’t align with these hours are able to schedule a separate appointment with her.

She added that it can be difficult to tell whether the increase in Food Bank usage is due to increased awareness of food insecurity or an increased amount of people who are facing food insecurity, but the factors go “hand-in-hand.”

“I think that there’s been a lot of really good awareness about food insecurity on campus. It’s been growing for the last few years due to the work of a ton of people,” said Schnarr.

The topic of food insecurity has been at the forefront of more discussions at UBC.

At the September 2019 Board of Governors (BoG) meetings, the university introduced the Food Insecurity Action Team (FIAT), which is tasked with gathering more comprehensive data to help tackle food insecurity on campus.

Looking ahead into the future, Schnarr and the executive team plans to continue to expand the Food Bank and their initiatives. Recently, the Food Bank announced a partnership with Sprouts, a volunteer-run vegan cafe, that would provide students with vouchers for a hot meal.

“We’re just really fortunate to have had such amazing community support with our donation total this year,” Schnarr said.

“We are really focusing on brainstorming and just being able to grow in general, whatever that might look like.”