UBC staff now ineligible for AMS Food Bank due to insufficient funding

The AMS will no longer allow UBC staff to use the AMS Food Bank due to rising costs starting in May.

AMS President Eshana Bhangu announced the policy change at the March 29 AMS Council meeting, adding that UBC staff members seeking help from the AMS Food Bank will now be diverted to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank. According to a letter sent to the Board of Governors and signed by Bhangu and Anisha Sandhu, the interim VP academic and university affairs, the AMS Food Bank is encountering financial difficulties, making it impossible to sustain the current level of service to UBC students and staff.

The announcement comes after a large jump in usage over the past year from 7,496 visits in the 2021/22 policy year to an anticipated 15,861 by the end of 2022/23 policy year.

The increase in visits coincides with a significant decline in university funding for the food bank, from $90,000 in 2021/22 to initially $25,000 in 2022/23. UBC later allocated an additional $145,000 in 2022/23 amid student protests.

In an interview with The Ubyssey, Senior Student Service​​s Manager Kathleen Simpson said it was a “difficult decision to come to” but the AMS recognized that “the service that is run by and for [students] and funded by student fees.”

She indicated that staff represented 34–35 per cent of total users at the end of 2022.

The decision to end staff access was in part due to the stress their usage was creating on the food bank's ability to service students.

“Faculty and staff actually have a disproportionate impact on the amount of groceries that we need to be able to provide,” Simpson said, adding that 90 per cent of staff users use the food bank to provide food for their family.

Per the AMS Food Bank, families are entitled to twice as many groceries as individuals during a single visit.

Simpson said the AMS has attempted to lower costs by limiting staff access to 8 times this term, compared to students who are allowed 16 visits.

“Supporting faculty and staff at our current rates next year would mean that we're offering less support to students because we are resource constrained,” she said. “We're not in a position to be able to support [staff visits] even if we were to get the [$350,000] contribution that we've requested from UBC.”

Joey Hansen, the executive director of the Association of Administrative and Professional Staff (AAPS), said the decision is rational but indicative of a troubling reality within the university in an interview with The Ubyssey.

“I think that it's reasonable for the AMS to look after its members first,” he said. “The university simply shouldn't have employees who experienced food insecurity.”

Hansen said the AMS Food Bank situation is a symptom of a broader pay issue affecting UBC staff.

“Whether its staff or faculty are experiencing food insecurity, then UBC as an employer ought to be looking at itself in the mirror and determine why it has employees who experience food insecurity, and how the compensation package should be altered so that there are no employees experiencing food insecurity,” said Hansen.

UBC declined to comment on this change to the AMS Food Bank distribution model.