British Columbia·What's Your Story?

UBC food bank sees a spike in visits this year

The number of visits to the University of British Columbia's food bank for students has tripled this fall, according to its coordinator.

Many food bank clients are grad students who have families or student loans, says coordinator

Jay Singh, coordinator of the AMS Food Bank at UBC, says the organization saw 95 visits in the month of October alone, three times more what than the same time last year. (CBC)

The number of visits to the University of British Columbia's food bank for students has tripled this fall, according to its coordinator.

There were 163 visits to the Alma Mater Society food bank at UBC in September and October, up from 52 last year, said Jay Singh, AMS food bank coordinator. 

"I didn't even know we had a food bank on campus before I started working here. Once I started here I realized the necessity for the service, and heard stories," said Singh, who joined the food bank in May.

'A very inclusive environment'

The increase in visits to the food bank is no surprise given rising housing and tuition costs on campus. But some students still find it difficult to admit they need help from the food bank to get by, says Chris Herron, a food bank volunteer.

"I've seen people come in quiet and take in stride that they are using the food bank, but when they take food off the shelf, they cry and have to leave."

Singh says they try to make food bank clients as comfortable as possible.

"Dealing with the stigma, we've kept it very simple as well," he said.

"[We] kinda make them forget that they're using the food bank, and ... make them feel like they are in a very inclusive environment when they come in."

'You'd assume this is a posh and privileged place'

Herron says it's important that people recognize those from all walks of life attend UBC.

Some of the food bank's clients are on student loans, according to Herron. 

"This is a very glamorous university if don't know much about the place you'd assume this is a posh and privileged place, this is where rich people send their kids to school."

The UBC food bank receives generous donations of non-food items as well, including baby supplies. (CBC)

Many of the students that visit the food bank are grad students, some with families to take care of, says Singh.

"We do interact with a lot of individuals who come with their spouses and also with their children."

"We actually have our own section in the food bank that has baby products that also has toys and other children-friendly products that thankfully get donated to us."

First-time clients of the food bank are often hesitant when they first walk in because they aren't sure if they actually need the service, says Singh. But he and the volunteers keep their mandate simple.

"If you are food insecure, that you don't have access to nutritious food, then anybody can use the service if they have a UBC student card," he said.

The AMS food bank at UBC is one of 97 food banks in B.C. and has been handing out food to students since 2006.

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To listen to the full audio, click the link labelled: UBC Food Bank coordinator says visits have tripled this year.

With files from Deborah Goble


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