Food is for everyone: UBC workers deserve to eat!

UPDATE: VOTE “YES” AT THE AMS SGM ON JUNE 4 @ 10AM

On June 4th from 10am-2pm, the AMS will host a Special General Meeting (SGM) in the AMS Nest Lower Atrium to put our motion to restore staff access to a vote. We need 621 currently-enrolled students to attend the meeting to reach quorum (for the vote to be legitimate). The motion:

BE IT RESOLVED THAT access to the AMS Food Bank be reinstated for associate members of the AMS.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT AMS Council members must consult all active members through a referendum to reverse this motion.

Note: Associate members of the AMS include AMS staff and UBC Vancouver faculty and staff.

This meeting was called after Sulong UBC submitted a petition with 500 signatures calling for the SGM to the AMS President. After a year of campaigning, this meeting is our opportunity to ensure workers’ rights are upheld by our student union. We need you to vote!


What is the AMS food bank?

The AMS Food Bank is a service run by AMS staff, funded by AMS student fees and the UBC food security for students initiative. It is one of a number of food services on campus (e.g. the Acadia Food Hub, UBC Meal Share, Sprouts), but it is open relatively frequently and is conveniently located in the basement of the Life building. Recently, Sulong UBC learned that workers on campus (especially food and custodial staff) used the food bank regularly, but were cut off from accessing the food bank in May 2023.

The food bank started in the early 2000s. Since its inception, staff have been regular users of the food bank, as we learned from Kathleen Simpson (Senior Manager, Student Services). We also learned from workers that there are just over 300 custodial staff at UBC, and most of them use the food bank! They said that the food bank saves them approximately $50-60 per visit to the grocery store. Many of them were surprised by the decision to limit their food bank usage, and stated that they didn’t hear about the reasoning behind this decision.

The AMS food bank budget

Kathleen shared that the decision to cut faculty and staff access to the food bank was made due to limited funding. They anticipate that their costs will continue to increase because food is more expensive due to inflation, and the number of food bank users increases consistently. 

AMS student fees pay for operational staff (approximately $10,000 per staff member per year — there are 4 staff members currently) and a small portion of food purchases. The AMS also receives 6 large food donations per week (each donation fills the food bank van) from grocery stores, and solicits large financial donations to offset purchase costs.

UBC pays for the bulk of the food purchases. This money comes from a VP Students fund dedicated to student food security initiatives, which totals $800,000 and is split between all student food initiatives (UBC Meal Share, AMS Food Bank, Sprouts, Acadia Food Hub, and the Food Hub Market). UBC funding for the AMS food bank is approved on a yearly or biannual basis, meaning that the AMS food bank cannot assume consistent funding for multiple years.

The food bank estimates that the cost of food purchases for the 2023-24 academic year will be $448,999.02 for only students, and $748,321.70 for students and staff, based on user statistics from previous years.

Timeline

Early 2000sThe AMS opens the food bank. Faculty, staff, and students are all regular users.
Fall 2022Food security becomes a hot topic on campus due to massive inflation. Food, rent, gas, and other basic needs have become extremely expensive. Student protests win financial support from UBC for student-focused food initiatives.
Fall 2022The staff currently involved in this campaign started using the food bank in fall 2022. They have the same access as students (2x/week).
Fall 2022The AMS food bank struggles to keep up with the increasing demand. They are advised by the UBC VP Students and the Greater Vancouver Food Bank (GVFB) to cut access to faculty and staff, because the GVFB can support them. Kathleen Simpson advises cutting staff access to the food bank after consultation with UBC executives and the AMS council. There is no referendum to seek student input.
Jan 2023Faculty and staff access to the food bank is reduced to once per week.
Mar 24 2023The AMS sends a letter to the UBC Board of Governors which includes a request for $350,000 to the AMS Food Bank, including a reiteration of their decision to end food bank support for staff.
April 2023The AMS food bank notifies all food bank users via email and letters posted on the food bank window that the food bank will not serve staff starting in May. However, many of the staff we spoke to did not recall hearing in advance about this decision, or said they heard about it through word of mouth or after being turned away from the food bank when they went to visit. Staff are advised to access the GVFB instead.
Apr 17 2023The Ubyssey releases an article about the food bank decision to limit staff access: “UBC staff now ineligible for AMS Food Bank due to insufficient funding.”
May 2023The AMS food bank stops serving faculty and staff. Sulong UBC learned about this issue after an appreciation lunch we held to meet Filipino workers on campus.
May 2023Sulong UBC and workers continue to meet to discuss the food bank issue. Workers form the “Concerned Workers Committee UBC” to co-work with Sulong UBC on this issue.
Jun 27 2023Sulong UBC meets with Kathleen Simpson and reads our open letter at the AMS council meeting. The AMS expressed sadness about the plight of workers and suggested we address the root causes by advocating for higher wages for workers.
In the AMS council meeting, we asked how we can support the AMS in advocating for greater funding from UBC to serve staff, but have not received a response yet.
July 10 2023The Ubyssey publishes “Food is for Everyone,” an interview on the AMS Food Bank issue with Clarissa Cox (Sulong UBC) and Felinor Adriano (custodial worker).
July 2023Sulong UBC and the Concerned Workers Committee UBC continue to meet regularly and gather signatures for the open letter.
April 2024Sulong UBC submits a petition with 500+ signatures to AMS President, calling for a Special General Meeting to vote on whether staff should have access to the AMS food bank.
May 2024AMS announces the SGM on Instagram for June 4th.

What are people saying about our campaign?

[In] May, AMS started to give again. I was so ashamed for myself— I’m in line until when I get inside the room and they say it is only for the students. I didn’t know that they changed the process. I was in line for 30 minutes waiting and no note outside, only the QR code. How do I know how to use the code? I am 67yrs old, very poor to understand the computer.

Earth Sciences Building custodial worker

I use the food bank for staples. I just want to use it again, even if it’s less often than the students.

Life Building custodial worker

We’re not asking for an everyday use, but once a week would be fair. Food is for everyone.

Felinor Adriano, custodial worker

The Sprouts community stands with @sulong.ubca today as they speak up against the unjust decision by the @ams_ubc to cut out staff from the AMS food bank. This decision did not involve the voices of community members. Cutting out the people who allow UBC to work everyday is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Food security is a right for all, and a food bank cannot be allowed to cut people out of their services.

The argument for insufficient funding is never valid, but especially not when they are receiving more than double from the food security initiative funding compared to previous years (going from 145k to 350k)

UBC Sprouts

Exposure supports Sulong UBC against the decision to exclude staff from the AMS food bank.

Exposure UBC