Photo: UVSS Financial Director Dakota McGovern signing the Good Food Campus Commitment.
Student governments are a powerful tool for enacting change on campuses.
In terms of food security, when student governments are empowered to make decisions about procurement and access, they can be a strong ally in the fight for good food for all students on their campus. At the University of Victoria (UVic), the UVic Student Society (UVSS) has recently partnered with Meal Exchange¹, and signed the 20% Good Food Commitment – an agreement to increase ‘Good Food’ procurement in the Student Union Building (SUB), to at least 20% by 2025. This exciting new commitment made by student government, has reinvigorated the conversation on campus about student access to just and sustainable foods. Further, it comes at a time when student mobilization and activism for greater food security and food sovereignty has been strong.²
Currently, Zoe Martin, a student of Environmental Studies and Political Science at UVic, is completing an audit of the SUB’s food purchasing over two months (one spring and one winter to account for seasonal shifts in local procurement). The partnership between Meal Exchange and the UVSS comes after several years of running the Good Food Challenge (GFC) on campus, with two audits completed of UVic’s two largest self operated food service outlets. Due to shifts in leadership in UVic’s food services as well as internal financial challenges, the commitment was not signed following the auditing process. In this light, the UVSS’ commitment to increasing ‘Good Food’ on campus has opened an exciting new chapter of Meal Exchange’s work at UVic. The ongoing support of student government provides students, such as those running the GFC and Meal Exchange chapter initiatives, with a vital source of inspiration for the Good Food Movement. Zoe will be working with the UVSS over the course of the year to develop a multi-stakeholder committee, and to develop clear pathways forward for achieving the goals within the GFC Commitment. Further, as the University of British Columbia and the University of British Columbia Okanagan are also moving forward with the GFC this year, creating opportunities for cross-pollination between campuses; a potentially powerful push for increases in Good Food procurement regionally.
In addition to GFC activities, UVic Meal Exchange has run several food literacy workshops between 2017-19, including a think tank, community kitchens, and a cultural foods fair. These chapter initiatives, coupled with GFC programming, create spaces for students to engage and learn about food security and food sovereignty in a myriad of ways, while also providing tangible reductions to food insecurity on campus. Namely, by shifting procurement practices, teaching students how to cook healthy meals and providing educational opportunities to enhance food literacy on just and sustainable foods, the chapter engages with students through a variety of mediums, and provides opportunities for many students to benefit from this work.
*Students can get involved in future chapter activities at UVic by following and/or sending a private message to the UVic Meal Exchange Facebook page or Instagram. Students can also contact the Meal Exchange national team for inquiries about the Good Food Challenge at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jessica Schellenberg, BC Good Food Challenge Fellow
¹“Founded in 1964, the UVSS is a social justice based non-profit run by students, it is separate from the University, and it runs a successful social enterprise that includes nine unique businesses. The students’ society exists to provide advocacy, representation, services, and events for its members” (UVSS, 2019).
²In 2018/19, students mobilized on campus to prevent Starbucks from coming to campus, and hosted a demonstration and food drive in support of international students (who have seen their tuition fees hiked by ~30% in the last three years alone, and who make up 50% of UVic’s food bank users). These campaigns were in addition to program development by UVic Meal Exchange, Community Cabbage, UVSS Food Bank and the Campus Community Garden to increase access to healthy foods, food literacy and better food procurement practices on campus.
University of Victoria Student Society. (2019). About. University of Victoria. Retrieved from: https://uvss.ca/about/yoursociety/