“Food is for everyone”: Sulong UBC petitions for staff access to AMS Food Bank

In an open letter, Filipinx/Canadian student activist organization Sulong UBC has called on the AMS to restore UBC staff access to its food bank.

Sulong and the Concerned Workers Committee UBC highlighted that this economic crisis is affecting workers and students alike, and the two campus groups should not be separated in their struggle.

In late March, the AMS announced they would no longer allow UBC staff to use the AMS Food Bank starting in May, citing financial hardship.

In a letter to the Board of Governors, previous AMS President Eshana Bhangu stated that the food bank’s projected budget was $575,495, with “no ability for the AMS to reduce these costs further.” With demand increasing exponentially, the letter said the AMS wanted to focus its efforts on students and would end support for UBC staff.

AMS Senior Student Services Manager Kathleen Simpson echoed these sentiments in an email statement submitted to The Ubyssey.

“It was an incredibly difficult decision,” she wrote. “With annual interactions at the food bank either doubling or tripling every year, the decision was made to ensure that the AMS supports the needs of their membership, cited as “UBC Vancouver students.”

Over the 2022/23, the number of staff visits allowed per term was decreased from 16 to 8. However, Simpson noted "nearly 40% of all groceries were distributed to faculty and staff" during that period.

Due to the increase in food costs, allowing faculty and staff to continue using the food bank would “significantly reduce the amount of food that we are offering each Food Bank user," said Simpson.

“As a student-first organization, we stand behind our decision to prioritize the needs of the thousands of unique individual students that rely on our services annually.”

Upon hearing this decision, Sulong UBC, began advocating for a restoration of the previous food bank access policies.

Clarissa Cox, a member of Sulong UBC, said food bank access is “fundamental” to staff’s experience at the university amidst inflation.

“One thing some of the staff have in common is they’ve had to leave their homelands due to poor economic conditions to have a better life in Canada,” said Cox.

Cox said Sulong UBC advocates for increased solidarity between students and UBC workers and their advocacy for staff food bank access is one way to express their solidarity.

Cox also criticized the AMS for making this decision without seeking approval from AMS Council.

“It’s crucial that the AMS Council represents the student body and the interest of the students,” said Cox. Moving forward, Cox said Sulong wants to work with the AMS to advocate for increased funding that would allow the restoration of food bank access to UBC staff.

Felinor Adriano, a UBC custodial services staff member, spoke on behalf of concerned staff members and emphasized the importance of access to the food bank. He found out the food bank ended support for UBC staff when the AMS posted notices on the food bank’s website that they would be prioritizing students.

“[The food bank is] one solution to alleviate some of the issues going around,” said Adriano, who has been working at UBC for five years.

Sulong UBC’s open letter references increased grocery costs facing staff without access to the food bank, stating workers now spend approximately $50-60 more per visit to the grocery store.

“We’re not asking for an everyday use, but once a week would be fair,” continued Adriano. He cited the AMS's commitment to equity, saying that “everyone should be included” in food bank’s access.

“Food is for everyone.”