The UBC Alma Mater Society (AMS) Food Bank has been seeing heavy demand in the last five months, which is leading to some concerns about food insecurity.
Concern is being driven by the stark increase of visits compared to the 2019/2020 school year, in which the food bank was visited 1,513 times. During the 2020/2021 school year there were 2,373 visits.
The AMS food bank saw 2,420 visits between May 2021 and October 14, 2021, according to Student Services Manager Mitchell Prost, in a report by Ubyssey.
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The AMS will be hiring more volunteers to keep up with the demand, but they’re still trying to pinpoint the main driver behind the increase.
A couple of possibilities that Prost points to include COVID-19 and the return to campus for UBC students.
“I really do think it’s because we have everyone coming back, there’s a lot more people on campus and when there’s more people, there’s a lot more folks in need,” said Prost.
Food insecurity is something that the AMS is concerned about.
According to the UBC Food Insecurity Initiative, food insecurity refers to “inadequate or insecure access to food due to financial constraints.”
The Canadian household average of food insecurity is 8.8%, however, food insecurity actually affects 35-40% of post-secondary students, according to a Statistics Canada report from 2017/2018.
The AMS food bank was initially mandated as emergency relief for students. However, due to the increased demand, students can currently access food bank services up to 16 times in one term.
While the food bank receives a stipend from the UBC President’s Office, it operates primarily on public donations. $65,000 was recently allocated to the food bank by the university.
UBC has also set a goal of reducing food insecurity by 50%, by the year 2025.
Prost adds that he hopes people talk about food insecurity more openly, in order to reduce the stigma that surrounds it, and to allow students to access the services they are in dire need of.