‘The campaign is not over’: Student leaders aim to maintain momentum for food security initiatives

Student leaders are trying to capitalize on the momentum of the Hungry for Change walkout by continuing to put pressure on UBC for more food security funding.  

Hundreds of students joined the Hungry For Change walkout organized by Sprouts Cafe on October 22 in support of an open letter demanding UBC permanently increase food security funding, among other affordability demands like a tuition freeze. Following the protest, student leaders say they have seen increased engagement with the issue.

Gizel Gedik, Sprouts co-president, said she believes this is a unique moment for student activism on campus. 

“Since campus closed [during COVID], the energy hasn’t been around. The walkout seems to have sparked that student body power again,” she said.

Niloo Gheshlaghi, president of Feed Forward UBC, a club focused on educating and engaging the student body on food insecurity, has also noticed an uptick in engagement since the walkout. 

“We did get a lot more engagement in terms of people being interested in both learning about [student food insecurity], as well as wanting to volunteer and contribute,” she said. 

The energy continues at AMS AGM

93 per cent of students voted 'yes' on a motion calling on UBC to enact longterm and sustainable funding to relieve student food insecurity at the AMS’ AGM last Monday.

The AGM saw some of its highest attendance in the past 40 years, and AMS President Eshana Bhangu acknowledged many students who changed their names on Zoom to indicate support for Hungry for Change.

“UBC can’t claim to be a world class university while offering Band-Aid solutions for students,” said AMS President Eshana Bhangu, "some of whom actually have to line up outside the AMS Food Bank every single day for hours, just to be able to feed themselves and their families.”

Bhangu said the motion will help demonstrate the substantial number of students backing the AMS's call for sustained food security support on campus, beyond the single installment funding the issue has received from UBC. 

“One-time funding only works for one-time problems. Food insecurity is not a one-time issue,” said  Bhangu.

Next steps for food security activism on campus

Last Thursday, Sprouts received a response from UBC on its open letter, which Gedik said contained no specific information about how the university will address concerned raised in Sprouts’ open letter and was largely similar to the UBC broadcast released Monday morning.  

In the broadcast, VP Students Ainsley Carry wrote that the university is addressing affordability concerns through its Student Affordability Task Force, and includes links to food access resources on campus.

Carry also wrote that the university "will continue to work closely and collaboratively with student leaders to understand this complex issue and build toward sustainable, long-term solutions."

Gedik said that while nothing has been announced yet, more action on food security is coming to mobilize while attention is on the issue.

“I don't want to say too much just yet, but there are things in the works,” said Gedik. “The campaign is not over.”