The UBC Food Bank Has Your Back

MikeHughesBy Mike Hughes, Research Associate at McNagny Lab, CBR

If judged on my current figure, you would probably be surprised to know that I skipped a few meals when I was a graduate student. With weeks to go until my next NSERC installment, my bank account was in overdraft protection. The poor, “starving” graduate student trope is not just a cliché. Fortunately, I had a good support system and parents who were able to help out when I needed a boost. I’ll always be grateful for those timely grocery gift cards. Not everyone is so lucky – so what do they do?

The UBC student society maintains a Food Bank for the exclusive use of UBC undergraduate and graduate students and students attending colleges affiliated with UBC (you just need a valid UBC student ID). I recruited a few students for a “trial visit” to the Food Bank to see how it works. See the video of our trip, so potential clients know what to expect if they want to use the Food Bank’s services. Thanks to Diana, Jessie and Christine for helping out!

Watch the CBR Knowledge Translation Committee visit to the UBC Food Bank.


The coordinator of the Food Bank, Jay Singh (, says that the program has experienced a dramatic increase in clients in the last 12 months, a need that has fortunately been met with an increase in donations to the bank. I spoke with Jay recently about the UBC Food Bank’s goals for 2016 (the following is a paraphrased summary).

Q: What are your most important goals for the Food Bank in the next year?

Jay: We are always concerned with making sure we continue to get donations to a level that matches our clients. But this year we will also have a major focus on getting the word out…making sure that UBC students, our clients, know that we exist.

Q: Can you tell me about your typical clientele?

Jay: There isn’t really anything that is typical. Many of our clients are usually feeling at a low point in their lives but I am working hard to eliminate any stigma associated with using the Food Bank. Everybody has ups and downs in their lives and when they have a need to use the Food Bank, we want them to know that we are here to help. It shouldn’t be a big deal – many people struggle to make ends meet, especially students. You may need a bit of help one day, but you may be donating the next. Our motto is “We’ve got your back”.

Q: What about volunteers – do you have sufficient help to run the Food Bank?

Jay: We have several highly dedicated volunteers who work at the Food Bank, stocking the shelves, interacting with clients and promoting the Food Bank to donors and potential clients. In terms of new volunteers, we need people who can bring their own initiative to the table. We want people to think about what they can do for the Food Bank, to bring in more donations and execute the work themselves – that has the greatest impact.

Q: What type of food do you generally need for donations?

Jay: I tell people to donate high quality foods that they would eat themselves. Non-perishable foods are preferred but we do have a refrigerator and plan to get a chest freezer soon. This will allow us to provide more fruits and vegetables and some perishable frozen goods.

The UBC Food Bank is located in the lower level of the Old SUB building (Room 42U). For tips on making your food dollar stretch and more details about the Food Bank (including the bank’s hours and policies) see the UBC Food Bank Blog.

Look for the food “donation station” boxes set up in the LSI lunchroom (Level 4) – including one in the refrigerator for perishable items. All donations will go to the UBC Food Bank. If you are interested in helping promote food donations and collections please contact the author at

The Centre for Blood Research (CBR) reminds the reader that the UBC Food Bank is one of many important causes in need of financial and volunteer support.

For more information see other stories featuring the UBC Food Bank on CBC News, The Vancouver Sun and UBC’s CiTR radio station/podcast.