'They are always available': Sprouts starts offering free meals, produce through funding from UBC

Sprouts Cafe is partnering with UBC’s Food Security Initiative (FSI) to combat food insecurity on campus by offering free meals and produce.

The FSI has been allocated $45,000 from UBC’s incremental tuition revenue to support Sprouts and Agora Cafe, another student run cafe on campus, in food security projects.

As a result of the funding, Sprouts is able to offer 30 free meals a day at its cafe in the Life Building as well as some free subscriptions to its bulk produce buying initiative. Students can access these free meals with no questions asked — “they are always available” — according to an email from Sprouts VP Laura Gordon-Mitchell.

Sprouts is a volunteer-run food cooperative that currently serves food and offers subscriptions to Sprouts boxes, a non-profit subscription for local produce.

In an interview with The Ubyssey, Sprouts President Emma Gunn and Gordon-Mitchell emphasized the role organisations like Sprouts play in food security at UBC. “We've worked really hard over the years to provide a space on campus that provides healthy and affordable food to students as well as the community,” said Gordon-Mitchell.

Thirty seven per cent of UBC Vancouver students reported experiencing food insecurity in the AMS’s Academic Experience Survey before the pandemic. The number of students using the AMS Food Bank has also skyrocketed as UBC shifted back into in-person operations in autumn 2021.

Along with free meals, Sprouts is able to offer free Sprouts box subscriptions. According to Gunn, Sprouts was out of free subscriptions within an hour of applications opening, “really showing us how much larger the need is on campus for access to food and access to like fresh produce.”

Meanwhile, the free meals, which only started being offered on November 8, have seen interest but haven’t sold out. “I think the word is still getting out a lot. We've had more people each day. So I assume that will continue,” said Gunn.

In an interview with The Ubyssey, Sara Kozicky, food security project manager at UBC, said Sprouts was identified when they were looking for organizations that “have a long history of supporting students who may be experiencing food insecurity, and just overall really promoting [the] Community Food Security [Hub] at UBC.”

Kozicky highlighted that while the funds were administered by the FSI, they came from UBC’s incremental tuition revenue.

Kozicky also said that “it really was up to Sprouts to, based on the certain amounts of money that we could provide, decide what the priorities were and what categories of funding they would like to use those funds on.”

“Students are doing really, really exciting, really innovative and just really cool things that are benefiting students here at UBC,” said Kozicky, referencing Sprouts, Agora Cafe and Campus Nutrition, among others.