'It is quite needed': Food Hub Market reopens on campus

The reopening of the Food Hub Market, located in the Centre for Interactive Sustainability, may serve as a welcome relief for many students.

With a provision of at-cost food items, the UBC grocery store began as a nine-week pilot project in February 2022. It serves as one of the many student-led campus initiatives aimed at combating food insecurity and the rising costs of living in Vancouver.

According to Noorjean Hassam, the chief student health officer, the Food Hub Market, with its student-led partnership model, is the first of its kind in Canada.

“The university recognizes and appreciates that current inflationary pressures, including the high cost of food, are challenges for our students," said Hassam. "By selling groceries at cost and leveraging university support for space, logistical, and purchasing solutions, we believe this can elevate student leadership through a sustainable model,”

Students at the reopening on November 23 voiced support for the market.

“It is quite needed … you see all the people around here [the market], obviously it’s quite needed,” said Sam Chan, a third-year neuroscience student.

“I know people who are struggling to get food on the table because tuition and rent is so expensive. What happens is that they neglect food because they have to pay for rent and tuition which are non-negotiable. But you really can’t have starving students on campus, especially at a place like UBC which is so highly ranked.”

Food insecurity has been a rising concern on the Vancouver campus. In October, hundreds of UBC students walked out of class to call for more support from UBC on this issue.

“I think [the market] is a good start, but a lot of these incentives are student-run. I think there should be a lot more support from UBC directly to help with stuff like this,” said Chan.

The Food Hub Market is run through paid student coordinator positions and a volunteer base of over 40 students and community members. The market and its partner programs received $35,000 in the fall from UBC to help provide direct access to food while reducing stigma and barriers to access.

Among the cans of dried goods and vegetables, the Food Hub Market also hosts stocks of Sapporo Ichiban, coconut milk and pre-made packets of Tandoori Rice.

Second-year student Adrianne Tang, said, “I really like the diversity that the market offers. When I was walking by, you can see a lot of different ethnic foods, a lot of foods that people would enjoy. It’s really student friendly, and a good choice for people who don’t want to eat out.”

Those working at the market said they have heard positive feedback from students.

“I’ve heard from students how important the community aspect of the space is — it’s warm and inviting and provides high quality food that students can afford. Students tell me it’s making a huge difference in their lives,” said Kaitlin Wu, the Food Hub Market student director.

The Food Hub Market will operate until April 2023, with a potential to stay open depending on if there is sufficient demand.