Food Hub Market launches in CIRS building

A new nine-week pilot project, the Food Hub Market, recently launched in the CIRS building.

On February 16, the project began, providing low cost groceries to anyone on the UBC Vancouver campus. The project is a partnership between UBC Food Services, UBC Wellbeing and the UBC Sustainability Hub.

During the Food Hub market’s March 2 open house, UBC student Matthew Chen expressed optimism with the program's focus on affordability.

“I think a lot of students are struggling financially,” Chen said. “Groceries are a big factor.”

Will Zich, a fifth-year interdisciplinary studies student, has been heavily involved with the pilot project. He said the idea for this project emerged from his environmental psychology class.

“In that class, UBC approaches students with problems they have on campus,” Zich said. The university approached his class looking for solutions to stigmatization of food insecurity.

And so the idea of a market began. Zich said the concept of an inexpensive food market, as opposed to a food bank, would be a “new, less stigmatizing resource” for UBC students. “After doing some research . . . we came up with the hypothesis that it’d be better to charge people money,” Zich said.

Food Security Project Manager Sara Kozicky said she had conversations with the Food Security Initiative on a low-cost market at the same time Zich was interested in tackling stigma in accessing food.

“There was great interest in buy-in from UBC Food Services . . . We got together in January and everyone said, ‘This is great, let's do this!”

“The premise of this market is that it turns absolutely zero profit,” Zich said. “Basically, whatever it costs UBC to buy and ship items over here, we’re selling them back to you at that price.”

Food Services Director Colin Moore said he hopes students take advantage of the market since it is subsidized by the university.

“We want to make sure all the subsidy goes back to the students,” he said in an interview with The Ubyssey.

“The university has been doing so much of the heavy lifting,” Zich said. “They’re coordinating all the purchasing, all the stocking, all the staffing. So it’s been a fantastic partnership model.”

As for what the Food Hub market hopes to achieve, Zich referenced a 2019 study conducted by the faculty of land and food systems that found nearly 40 per cent of UBC Vancouver students reported food insecurity.

“It’s far more common than a lot of people think,” Kozicky said on the matter. “Whether there are 40 per cent of students experiencing food insecurity or five per cent, that’s still concerning and still requires effort to make that change.”

The project team hopes the nine-week duration of the pilot project will help contribute to UBC’s wellbeing strategic target of significantly reducing food insecurity for UBC members by 2025.

The Food Hub Market is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1–7 p.m. until mid-April. More information can be found here.