AMS Food Bank Stays Open During Pandemic

By Cali Schnarr, AMS Food Bank Coordinator

 

As the UBC campus and Vancouver are closing down to avoid the risks of COVID-19, we understand that many clients rely on the AMS Food Bank to put food on the table.  On top of that, many students may be facing even tougher financial hardship than usual. That’s why, despite the Nest & Life Building closures, we’ve worked with our partners at the university to ensure that the Food Bank is still open during these difficult times. 

Keeping the service running  

Usage of the AMS Food Bank has increased over the past few days we’ve been open, we’ve seen between 20-25 clients and their families use our service each day, even with limited hours, in comparison to seeing 18.5 on average before. We also anticipate that this number will increase even more in the coming days.

In order to keep the service running, we are implementing social distancing measures to the best of our ability to protect all our service users. For example, due to the size of our space, only one client is allowed in the Food Bank at a time. We are sanitizing all frequently touched surfaces (e.g. fridge door handle) between each client. And, we have cancelled all volunteer shifts, so the food bank is currently being run by paid staff members. Volunteers are still able to help out if they wish, but we are not asking them to given the circumstances – the safety of our team is our first priority.

Community donations 

The good news is that we’ve had some very generous community donors that have really helped, and that’s gone a long way. The Food Bank team has also done an awesome job in growing the amount of money donated each year, and that is really helping us out now. However, even with this increase in monetary donations, there are some items that have been really hard to get, like frozen vegetables, canned food, and sanitary products. We will continue to welcome donations of any sort.

While we have plenty of funding, we rely on regular orders from grocery stores to stock our service. Unfortunately, due to grocery store shortages, we have been struggling to get many of our staple non-perishable items. However, we’ve had some tremendous community support so far from many students who are moving out, businesses in the Nest that are now closed, and the Marriott hotel. We’re extremely grateful for these donations that have allowed us to stay open during this difficult time.

The role of food banks 

Food Banks will always be an emergency solution, but they’re still essential. Of course, long-term, there’s a lot of work to do to address the underlying financial causes of food insecurity. Ensuring income that can cover necessary expenses such as housing, tuition, and food for all students is the goal. A world where we can all access nutritious food that meets our dietary needs and preferences, despite any difficult circumstances, is our goal.

The AMS Food Bank is here because we understand that this is still far from reality. The bottom line is that we work to put food on peoples’ tabes who currently can’t. 

The positive note is that UBC has just hired two paid staff members whose jobs are focused on on-campus food security, and we’re hopeful that they’re able to start tackling the larger-picture issues soon. We will also continue to advocate for the importance of food security. But until we live in a world where these underlying financial causes are truly eradicated, we have students’ backs.

Education about food insecurity 

To help out the Food Bank as an individual student, you can apply to be a volunteer near the beginning of each academic term. If you’re a club or organization, you can organize a food drive or fundraiser next year. As a staff member or leader on campus, advocate for affordable housing and tuition, as well as well-paying, accessible jobs for students. Finally, anyone can help decrease the stigma surrounding food insecurity by taking even 15 minutes to educate themselves about its prevalence, and how those affected can seek support!

We are here to help you 

If you need to use the AMS Food Bank, we are currently open with reduced hours:  

  • Mondays from 10 am-2 pm
  • Thursdays from 1 pm-5 pm

The service is only accessible from the southwest side of the building (by the Bike Kitchen). There is no accessibility ramp, so for those with different accessibility needs or having trouble finding the door, you can call us at 604-822-2371 a few minutes before arriving and we will assist you.

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