From the Boardroom//

From the Boardroom: Governors approve $800k for food security in the 2023/24 academic year

UBC’s Board of Governors met on Friday in the Robert H. Lee Family Boardroom to discuss the 2023/24 budget and food security funding.

The motion was to continue the 2022/23 base budget allocation, release $800,000 for food security initiatives and defer the 2023/24 budget.

The budget was already once deferred in March by the Board’s Finance Committee.

Committee chair Azmin Lalani said the committee asked UBC administration to review aspects of the draft budget.

According to VP Finance and Operations Frank Laezza, the administration is “looking at the budget strategically,” since large changes cannot be made because of time constraints. Laezza said the updated budget will be brought to the Finance Committee on April 12 and to the full Board on April 14.

The budget’s $800,000 for food security initiatives is above last year’s initial allocation of $325,000 to food security initiatives at UBC Vancouver.

Sprouts held a student walkout in October 2022 to demand permanent food security funding to be set at $1.91 million, the same level as the one-time funding of the 2021/22 fiscal year.

Later that month, UBC allocated an additional $425,000 of food security funding, for a total of $750,000 for the 2022/23 fiscal year.

Student governor Max Holmes asked if the administration will prioritize funding food banks and pantries while allocating these funds.

“I am particularly worried that those services, if they don’t receive the necessary funding, [will have] service reductions,” said Holmes. “And that will cause significant harm to students on campus.”

VP Students Ainsley Carry said the Food Security Initiative, the UBC body that allocates the funding, has a governance process for allocation that includes members of the AMS and other student groups. Carry also said the Board should not make allocation decisions because it moves the Board “out of governance and into management.”

Holmes agreed with Carry, but asked to amend the motion to specify a priority for food banks and pantries across both UBC campuses.

“This is not getting into the weeds of saying ‘You must give X number of funding to initiatives,’” he said, “Rather, it’s saying the Board is prioritizing and passing this budget, that these acute services on campus that are seeing increased demand [are] prioritized in getting that first.”

Lalani said the administration has identified many food security initiatives and by focusing on this particular item “we're going down a rabbit hole,” because “there’s multiple avenues that the administration is taking to address food security.”

Student governor Georgia Yee said the AMS, in order to cut costs and target the student population, has cut services for UBC staff.

Carry said the challenge UBC faces is that all of the food security groups who received FSI funding are in need of allocated funding.

Governor Bill Sundhu said he opposes the amendment since the original wording provided allocation flexibility. He also said food insecurity is a “profound and major public policy failure of the Canadian state.”

President and Vice-Chancellor Deborah Buszard said after the discussion, “It's shocking, that in a country as wealthy as Canada, that [food insecurity] is such a big issue.”

“Food banks have played a central role, but they should be a last resort,” said Buszard. “What we really want is for all of our community to have access to funding they need.”

Holmes’s amendment did not pass.

Carry reiterated UBC’s administration will not decide how food security funding will be allocated

“We don’t put our thumb on the scale about where the students want to divide the $800,000,” said Carry. He also said if student groups believe more funding should be allocated toward them, the administration would address that.

Holmes said he would vote against this motion because of a lack of information on specific allocations. He also said UBC does not have information on whether $800,000 is enough funding for students.

Yee said she will vote for this motion, but said the point Holmes raised is important.

The motion passed.