British Columbia

Hundreds walk out of UBC classes to demand university action on food insecurity

Hundreds of students walked out of classes at the University of British Columbia on Friday afternoon to protest the university's lack of action on food security.

University says it is increasing funding for its food security programs by $500,000 this year

Dozens of students march along a tree-lined boulevard. One in the centre is holding up a sign that reads 'UBC YOUR STUDENTS ARE HUNGRY FOR CHANGE'.
Hundreds of UBC students walked out of classes on Friday, Oct. 21, 2022, to demand action from the university on food insecurity. (Corey Bullock/CBC)

Hundreds of students walked out of classes at the University of British Columbia on Friday afternoon to tell the university it needs to do more to address food insecurity.

The protest came after sustained criticism from students who say the university cut funding to food security programs and students are struggling to deal with the rising cost of food.

Students at the event, which was organized by food cooperative UBC Sprouts, pointed out that the university has an endowment of over $2.8 billion, yet some students were struggling to survive.

"People I know spend up to $800 a month [on food]," said Nick van Gruen, one of the students who walked out. "I don't buy food on campus just cause it's too expensive. I've just ruled that out for me."

Students hold up signs that read 'Inflation=starvation' and 'hungry for change'.
UBC Sprouts says more than a thousand people walked out of classes on Friday. (Corey Bullock/CBC)

An Alma Mater Society (AMS) report said that visits to the AMS Food Bank had increased nearly 500 per cent over pre-pandemic levels, as rising costs continue to hit students hard.

A statement from UBC Sprouts issued before the protest said that the university's funding for food security programs had dropped 83 per cent during the current academic year compared to 2021/22.

Gizel Gedik, co-president of the cooperative, said she wants the university to restructure the way funding decisions are made.

"It relies very heavily on UBC leadership's perspective and paid consensus, rather than based on community members and students," she told Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's The Early Edition.

"We are asking for students and staff at large to join food security work."

Gedik says the walkout, and an open letter they circulated beforehand, are students' last resort to force the university's hand and increase funding for food security programs.

This Friday, UBC's volunteer-run grocery store and cafe Sprouts is hosting a student walkout for food security. The presidents of UBC Sprouts join us to talk about why they're doing "Hungry for Change".

University faced criticism before

In early September, UBC faced criticism over an email to alumni asking for a $10 donation to help food-insecure students.

"As part of our UBC alumni family, will you consider a gift of $10 to the UBC Meal Share program?" the email says, quoting Ainsley Carry, UBC's vice-president of students.

"Your gift will buy a student breakfast and show them that they're part of a community that cares."

A student protester holds up a placard that reads 'Hungry for Change', flanked by dozens of other protesters.
UBC had previously faced criticism for not appropriately funding its food security programs and asking alumni for donations to help food-insecure students. (Corey Bullock/CBC)

The email noted that over 35 per cent of undergraduate students at UBC's Point Grey campus and 40 per cent at UBC Okanagan faced food insecurity.

"You see a lot of students picking up two or three part-time jobs," Eshana Bhangu, AMS president, said at the time.

"Food insecurity hasn't decreased so when you increase funding one year and the next year it goes back to what it was before, it just doesn't work."

UBC pledges to increase funding

Andrew Parr, UBC's associate vice-president of student housing, said Friday that the university is increasing funding for its food security programs by $500,000 this year.

Fifteen per cent of that funding — $75,000 — will go to programs at UBC Okanagan and $425,000 will go to programs at UBC Vancouver.

In addition to giving the AMS Food Bank $145,000, Sprouts will get an additional $30,000, and the meal-share program will receive an additional $210,000. Previously, the only university money going to the food bank was a $25,000 donation from the President's Office.

Parr disputed the criticism that funding was cut to food security programs, saying 2021/22 budget numbers were increased by one-time pandemic funding and that funding returned to pre-pandemic levels instead of being cut.

"We are currently exploring long-term funding to provide ongoing, stable support for food security-related needs," he said.

Gedik says the funding is unsustainable and would not last beyond the year.

"We believe that the money is one-time funding, and does not meet our demands," she said following the protest.

"It feels like hush money because UBC wants the problem to go away."


Akshay Kulkarni


Akshay Kulkarni is a journalist who has worked at CBC British Columbia since 2021. Based in Vancouver, he has covered breaking news, and written features about the pandemic and toxic drug crisis. He is most interested in data-driven stories. You can email him at

With files from Corey Bullock, The Early Edition, and Yasmin Gandham