Sulong UBC calls on staff food bank access reinstatement during community meeting

On June 11, Sulong UBC held a community meeting to demand the AMS reinstate staff food-bank access after the AMS's special general meeting (SGM) failed to meet quorum

On June 4, the AMS held a SGM after a petition from Sulong UBC which called on the AMS to hold a SGM to vote on a motion to reinstate AMS associate members’ access to the AMS Food Bank. Staff access to UBC’s food bank has been restricted since May 2023. 

In the Nest's lower atrium, roughly 20 community members gathered for Sulong's community meeting. Other community members joined via Zoom.

Sulong UBC representative Christian Sanchez began the meeting with a land acknowledgement which recognized food insecurity as a consequence of imperialism and colonialism.

Maya Fernando, a Sulong UBC representative, said the AMS Food Bank is the AMS's most frequented service. She criticized the AMS’s redirection of UBC staff to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank (GVFB) after restricting staff access to the AMS Food Bank.

“It's very clear that those involved … did not … take the time to reach out and try to understand how the people's lives would be affected,” Fernando said.

Fernando also said Sulong UBC learned, through “foster[ing] relationships with service workers,” that accessing the GVFB was a months-long process.

“Previously [staff could save] 50 or 60 bucks per grocery trip by simply picking up food in the same place that [they] go to work,” said Fernando. Now staff who work full time and experience food insecurity, according to Fernando, “have all these new obstacles to jump.”

Campus organizations like Climate Justice UBC, the UBC Social Justice Centre and Pride Collective all posted in support of Sulong UBC’s meeting. Fernando said staff and students have a symbiotic relationship and so students should support staff food bank access.

“It's important to think of students and workers not as two distinct groups who happen to have separate life obligations on the same campus, but as coexisting people who rely on one another.” 

Sulong UBC signs call for food justice.
Sulong UBC signs call for food justice. Iman Janmohamed / The Ubyssey

According to the United Way BC, 17 per cent of British Columbians face food insecurity, and 38 per cent of students reported "having worried, at some point over the last 12 months, about running out of food before they could afford to buy more groceries" according to the 2023 Academic Experience Survey.

On its website, the AMS said "UBC staff and faculty cannot be supported…. [given the] rising food prices and growing student demand.”

Additionally, the AMS's website said the society does not aim “to pit students against UBC staff and faculty; rather [to] prioritize students who have less opportunity to access other food security resources.” 

Fernando also called on the AMS to “revisit [its] spending priorities" and read a statement from UBC worker Roger Newell.

“I'm fortunate today — My wife and I don't have to choose between food and rent ... I have coworkers today that have to make [that] choice," read Newell's statement. "I want each of you to … see that you're asking us to beg not just for food, but for access to food…. So I am doing that. I am begging you to reinstate access to food for those of us facing desperate choices."

The AMS did not respond to The Ubyssey's request for comment by press time.

Iman Janmohamed

Iman Janmohamed photographer

Coordinating Editor

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