UBC Undergraduate Research

Assessing 'affordability' of food at the University of British Columbia : planning for the future of… England, Margaret; Koo, Winphia; Li, Jenny; Royer, Rolande; Savage, Krista; Wang, Vanessa; Yuen, Karry 2002-04-03

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UBC Social Ecological Economic Development Studies (SEEDS) Student Report       Assessing ‘Affordability’ of Food at the University of British Columbia: Planning for the Future of Food Security Margaret England, Winphia Koo, Jenny Li, Rolande Royer, Krista Savage, Vanessa Wang, Karry Yuen  University of British Columbia AGSC 450 April 3, 2002           Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report”.      Assessing ‘Affordability’ of Food at the  University of British Columbia: Planning for the Future of Food Security        AGS C 450 April 3, 2002   Margar et En gland, Winphi a Koo, Jenn y Li, Rolande Ro ye r,   Krist a Sava ge, Vanessa Wang, Karr y Yu en                2  Abstract  T he eco no mic a sp ec t of foo d sec ur it y at T he Un iver s it y o f British Co lu mb ia was a sses sed by investi gati n g per ce ived over all affo r d ab ilit y of ca mp u s fo o d ite ms.  Ques ti o nnair es re gar d ing ca mp u s fo o d estab lish ment s and participants’ purchasi n g hab its wer e distr ib uted rand o ml y at hig h -tr a ffic loca tio ns on ca mp us.  Se vent y - ei ght per ce n t of respondents rated the overall price of food at UBC as “moderately expensive” or “expensive” and 80% purchased fo o d five ti me s per wee k or le ss, lead in g us to co nclud e t hat over all fo o d pricing is pred o minan tl y i nap p r o p r iate fo r the UB C co mmu n it y.  Sho r t -t er m, inter med iate, and lon g - te r m prac tical rec o mme nd atio n s ar e pro p o sed to fac ilitate achieve me nt of UB C foo d sec ur it y wi th in a d yna mic and e v o lvin g co mmu n it y .          Introduction  This paper addresses the ‘affordability’ of food on the University of British Columbia (UBC) campus in the context of ‘food security’. A food system may be defined as ‘food secure’ when “all people at all times have physical and ec onomi c acc ess to suf ficie nt, safe, and nutrit ious food that meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” 1 . Moreover, food se curit y invol ves four main components: avail abil it y (amount and dist ributi on of food), ac cessi bil it y (lo ca ti on and ease of obtaining food ), af fordabil it y (food prices withi n the means of a comm unit y), and appropriateness (fo od that meets all needs of a comm unit y) 1 . For the UBC community, ‘food security’, particularly the ‘affordability’ of food, is an i ncre asingl y important iss ue. We propose that the overall price of food on campus ha s a lar ge impact on the choice and pr ocur ement of food. This paper will first present our unde rl yi ng value assum pti ons in relation to food securit y at UBC and will revie w it s hist or y of food . The paper will then present our resea rch (methodol o gy, result s, anal ysis , and limi tations ) concerning ‘affordability’ of food on campus. Finally, the paper will provide recommendations for the UBC food s ystem b ased on the result s of our res ear ch.   Our res ear ch group is compos ed of membe rs with different acad emi c back grounds, prim aril y nutrit ion and economi cs, and thi s comp osit ion inherentl y influen ces our perspe cti ve on ‘food security’ at UBC. Reg a rdless, we beli eve that human needs for nut ritiou s and affo rdable food must be placed at the forefront of efforts to establish a ‘food secure’ system. However, the  3  issue of food is not sol el y confined to economi c consi de rati ons. We als o reco gniz e th at it is important to consider the ‘sustainability’ of the food system, particularly its long -term capa cit y to maintain the integrit y of the environment while ensuring that it meets the cult ural and social needs of the community. Consequently, ‘food security’ in volves a diverse ran ge of factors (economi c, nutrit ional, environmental, social) an d thus, our views entail a paradi gm of weak anthropocentrism . Food Security: Our Economic Focus Our group chos e to focu s on one aspect of food securit y af fecti n g the UBC com muni t y. We believe that economics (i.e. ‘affordability’ of food at UBC) is of such importance that it contributes to food ‘insecurity’, since the price of food may create a barrier to obtaining food if an individual cannot afford it. ‘Expensive’, and thus, unafford able fo od items ma y be the prim ar y barrie r to food securit y for the UBC com muni t y, pa rticularl y bec a use students comprise 72% of th e tot al populat ion 6 . Due to the limi ted cap acit y fo r students to work and me et their acad emi c comm it ments, most have a modest disposable-income, result ing in a limi ted budget to spend on food.     S ince there is an abunda nce of food avail able at UBC, it is apparent that the price of food will be the determi ning factor in whethe r the UBC comm unit y will ac c ess that food.      C urrentl y, the food s er vices avail abl e include: Alma Mater Societ y, s uch as Pendulum and Gall er y; UBC Food Se rv ice, such as 99 Chairs an d Ago ra; and the Vill a ge , such as Mc Donalds and Countr y Time. Nex t, we consi der the hist or y of food securit y on camp us and assess how the current food servic es me et the economi c capa cit y of th e UBC comm unit y.    4  History of ‘Affordability’ of Food at UBC To further understand the ‘affordability’ of food for the UBC community, our group ex ami ned resear ch cond ucted over the past six years regardin g food serv ices avail able at UBC and food-r elated needs of the comm unit y. The result s of thre e st udies suggest that the overall price of food is perceived as ‘expensive’, especially among the student population 3 ,4 ,5 . This information further supported our group h yp othesis that food securit y on cam pus is lar gel y influenced by ‘food price’. In order to test these findings and to make them more current, we conducted a campus - wide survey to assess the ‘affordability’ of food on the UBC campus. Research on the Affordability of UBC Food for the UBC Community Research Purpose and Methodology   Good  The purpose of our research was to objectively evaluate the ‘affordability’ of food at UBC and to determi ne how the ov erall pe rce pti on of food pric e infl uences th e purch asin g behavior of the UBC comm unit y.  The resea rch method invol ved developi ng and dist ributi ng a nine-questi on surve y (se e Appendix 1).   These questi onnaires were dist r ibut ed to indi viduals at random during various times of the weekda y in high -tr affi c locati ons on campus , including Bu ch anan Buil ding, M c Leod Electrical En gin eerin g Buil ding, Fami l y and Nutriti onal Sciences Buil d ing, Forestr y Scien ce Ce nter, Gage Residenc e, Instru cti onal Resourc e C entre, Ma cMi ll an Buil ding, and the Student Union Buil ding . The go al of our rese arch was to surve y at least 110 or 0.2% of the total UBC population (50,800).  The questi onnair e was designed to investi gate thr ee asp ects of food s ecuri t y in the UBC comm unit y: information on the respondent (positi on, age ran g e, gend er); food purchasin g habit s (purchasin g frequ enc y, specific food s ervic e, food budget ); food sec urit y -r elated att it udes  5  (primary reason for purchasing, perception of ‘overall’ price of food on campus). We also included a qu esti on rega rding th e will i ngn ess of the UBC comm unit y to incur incr eased prices for food produced in an ‘environmentally friendly’ manner (e.g. organic).  The design of the questionnaire provided indicators of ‘sustainability’, particularly to determi ne wheth er the price of food cu rr entl y m eets the economi c, so cia l, and environmental needs of the comm unit y. The economic indicators included both the ‘food budget range’ and the ‘perceived’ overall price of food on campus (“cheap, reasonable, moderately expensive, expensive”). These wo ul d help to determi ne whe ther there were finan cial limi tations for food purchasin g and whethe r food prices ar e app ropri ate for the comm unit y. The social indicator of sustainability of the food system was the question regarding the ‘primary reason’ for purc hasin g food (“price, convenience, personal preference, nutritional value”) at a particular food service. This provides insi ght on what social factors influe nce food choices. Our ecological indicator was anchored to the question regarding the ‘willingness’ of indi viduals to incur increas ed food pric es for ‘environmentally friendly’ food products. This provided insight on whether health of the environment influences food choices b y th e co mm unit y, re gardless of the potential economi c cost to the comm unit y. Summary of Major Research Results (refer to Appendix 2 and 3, Figures 1- 4) Most (89%) of the 114 people surve yed were UBC students, while the remainder was facult y, staf f, or alum ni. Correspondi ngl y, most of the respondents (79%) were betw een th e ages of 18 and 25. Th e major it y of respondents live off campus (68%) and on e thi rd (32% ) live in campus residenc e. More than two thi rds of our respondents are femal e (71 %). Most indi viduals (79.5%) pur chase food on campus less than fiv e times per week. The majorit y ( 45% ) chose ‘convenience’ as their primary reason for selecting a food establishment on campus, whereas price was a prim ar y fa ctor in 14% of the respondents. Our data also shows that personal  6  preference explains 31% of respondents’ reason for food selection . Howeve r, 55% of the respondents ‘perceive’ the overall price of food at UBC to be ‘moderately expensive’, whereas 23 % consider it to be ‘expensive’. Collectively, this indicates reservation about the cost of food on campus .          Research Limitations Due to time and finan ci al const raint s, we wer e unable to conduct a mor e repr esentative surve y of th e UBC com muni t y. We reco gniz e that the resea rch result s are l im it ed to a small percent of the comm unit y (0.2% ), and that thi s surve y is based prim a ril y on female students aged 18 to 25.  Thus, these result s may not accurately reflect the issue of ‘affordability’ of food for all members of the UBC comm unit y. The limi tations of time also const rai ned our abil it y to rese arc h other rel ated factors influencing th e overall food securit y at UBC, such as food acc essi bil it y, avail abil it y, and appropriaten ess. Thus, further rese ar ch is needed in order to full y address t he compl ex it y of food securit y at UBC and to d ocument the per cepti on of the UBC comm unit y.  Discussion of Results (refer to Appendix 2-3, Figures 2-3) We interpreted our results to mean that the ‘perceived’ overall food prices on campus ar e ‘moderately expensive’ to ‘expensive’, and provided this, most individuals (45%) make their food choices based on ‘convenience’. The predominately low frequency of food purchasing on campus strongl y reinforc es the int erpretation that ‘price’ is a significant barrier  . For ex ampl e, approx im atel y 80% of respon dents indi cate that the y purchase food less than five times per week (Appendix 2, Figure1). Co nversel y onl y 20% of respond ents purchas e food more than six times per week. This is important because it ma y hav e economic implications for food providers, which are not offering sufficient ‘price’ incentives for  7  the UBC comm unit y. Despit e limi tations to our resea rch (above), th e re s ult s of the data show that ‘affordability’ of food is an important issue influencing food security in the UBC community and we conclud e that overall food pricing is inappropriate for the majori t y of the comm unit y. Convenience is also a key factor bec ause stud ents, facult y, and staf f hav e schedules that require time efficienc y.          Recommendations for the UBC Food System Based on the result s of our rese arch, it is important to recomm end ch an ges in the UBC food s ystem that focus on imp roved ‘affordability’ of all food on campus, particularly the avail able of alt ern ati ve, lower -pric ed food. Introducing new poli cies to help increase the ‘affordability’ of food at all food services would be a key component to facilitating such change, as well as dire ctl y invo lvi ng the UBC comm un it y in the food s ystem.     W e recomm end that these poli cies be int roduced gr aduall y, be ginni ng wit h short -term (imm ediate, ongoing), int ermediate (month to years), and long-te rm (seve ral ye ars hence) go als. We address each of th ese cate gories below. Short-term Recommendations W e propose that immediate and on goin g chan ges to increase the afford abil it y of the food avail able at UBC could be met b y ex pandin g ex ist ing food price discount s curr entl y offe red b y onl y a few food s ervic es, such as Pendulum or the Ex press. This could be achi eved b y int roducing a poli c y th at requir es all food se rvic es at UBC to offe r thre e main pric e discounts. These include discounts for patrons that provid e their own foo d pa cka gin g (e. g. reusabl e mu gs,  8  plates etc.); frequent -bu ye r discounts (e. g. stam p cards that provide a fr ee meal aft er a certain number of purch ases); and volum e discounts (e.g. a reduc ed cost whe n several people in one group bu y th e same ite m   . Not onl y would these disc ounts help to inc reas e th e afford abil it y o f food but the y would also enc oura ge patron a ge  while helpi ng consum ers become mo re environmentall y con scious by decr easin g consum er waste and minim iz ing ne gati ve imp acts on the envi ronment.      These discounts ma y also enha nce a sense of comm unit y, for ex ampl e, by en cou ra ging groups to enjo y a meal to gether for a red uced pric e.  Intermediate Recommendations In the cours e of these short -term strate gies, devel opment of int ermediate goals to provide more ‘affordable’ food could involve “capacity building” 2 . This would invol ve the ex pansion of independent, student an d facult y- cente red food producti on s ystem that could produc e lowe r -priced food ac ross camp us. Currentl y, ther e are small -scale, student -run food services, such as “Wednesday Lunches” offered by students in the Faculty of Food, Nutrition and Health S ciences.     Thu s, we recomm end that th ese independ ent food s er vices be inc re asingl y diversified such that the y be come pa rt of all fac ult ies across campus . Th ese lunches would be mana ged, produ ced, and sold by th e students wit h the int enti on of pro vidi ng nutrit ious and afford able meals fo r fell ow students.        The pro fits of the lunches would be rei nves ted in the facult y fo r the benefit of the students who have volunt ee red in the program.   9  Long-term Recommendations Buil ding on the small -sc ale, student and facult y- r un food servi ces, ov er se veral ye ars th e UBC comm unit y could develop a comm unit y- ru n groc er y store as an alt ernati ve to privatel y operated food servi ces. Such a store at UBC m ay seem unne cessa r y, however, th e geo gr aphic isol ati on of the campus and the limi ted selection and small siz e of campus groc er y stores  warr ants an alt ernati ve source of food. The st ore would specific all y hire members of the comm unit y fo r mana ge ment and maintenance of the establi shment, and offer a yearl y membership to all UBC comm unit y m embers tha t would give a per cent discount (15%) on all food purch ased. This would provide a sourc e of income for comm unit y members and help to reduce food prices. The store could also focus on offe ring a variet y of l ocall y grown produc e from the UBC farm and suppl emented b y farme rs in the Lo wer Mainlan d, t hereb y linkin g th e UBC comm unit y with the surrounding comm unit y in a const ru cti ve manner. B y in cre asing th e avail abil it y of unprocess ed food, the groc er y stor e could provide a variet y of inex pensive foods, as added costs , such as t hose entailed b y tr anspor tation or producti on fees, would be minim iz ed. The food selecti on avail a ble at the grocer y store could also reflect the diverse mul ti cult ural needs of the UBC comm unit y. This would be consi stent with the strong survey s ampl e response of personal pre fer enc e in fo od selecti on (Fi gur e 2). Recommendations for Future Research     Although our recomm en dati ons have be en spe cific to incre asing th e af ford abil it y of food , we reco gniz e that further resear ch is needed to address the other aspects of food securit y at UB C, as well as the lon g- term ‘sustainability’ of the food system.  Further research should:  Assess how the acc essi bil it y, appropri ateness and avail abil it y of food on campus impacts food securit y   Determine how moving toward ‘food security’ will impact the e nviron ment, as well as the social and economic aspects of the UBC community and whether creating a ‘food secure’ system is sustainable in the long -term  10    Determi ne how to meet t he ch an ging ne eds of the UBC comm unit y over time, espe ciall y consi derin g that th e definitions of ‘food security’ and ‘sustainability’ of the food system will also change   Conclusion  It is clear that there are many factors that influence the overall ‘food security’ among the UBC community. Our questionnaire identifies that ‘affordability’ is a major concern and that this iss ue needs to be furthe r addr essed and alt e rnati v e solut ions sought.      We recognize that moving toward a more ‘food secure’ (affo rdable, appropriat e, acc essi ble, avail able ) food s ystem on campus will also require us to ex ami ne social and environmental impacts over the long -te rm. Perhaps wh at is most important is that we realize that both ‘food security’ and ‘sustainability’ are not static issues and that they require frequent re-ass es sment. These definiti ons will invariabl y ch an ge over time in relation to the chan ging needs of the comm unit y and the en vironment. Therefo re, we must remain flex ibl e in light of futur e reco mm endati ons and remai n vigil ant to the envir onmental, social, and economi c impacts of these chan ges. Our curr ent questi on naire provides a stepping-stone in thi s directi on for improved fo od securit y in the UBC comm unit y.              Appendix 1      University of British Columbia - Agricultural Sciences 450 Land Food and Community Survey  1) Are you a UBC Student?     Yes /No     If no, please indicate   Faculty / Staff _____ _  Other ____ __  2) Do you live on Campus?       Yes / No     3) How many times per week do you purchase food on campus? (An y kind or quantity)  0-2 times/week ___ 3 -5 times/week___6 -8 times/week___8 + times/week___  4) Which of the following do you most often visit?  (Please indicate by checking your primary reason for eating there.)  THE VILLAGE  Price  Convenience  Nutritional Value  Personal Preference  0c'onald’s     Second Cup      Country Time      One More Sushi      International Food Fair      Benny’s Bagels     Village Restaurant     Pita Pit      Playaz Pizza        UBC FOOD SERVICE OUTLETS  Price  Convenience  Nutritional Value  Personal Preference   The  Barn       <um <um’s       99 Chairs       Steamies       Agora       Arts 200       Edibles        12       AMS FOOD SERVICE  Price  Convenience  Nutritional Value  Personal Preference  Blue Chip      Pit Pub      Pendulum      Gallery      The Moon      Snack Attack      Pie R 2        OTHER:_____ _ __ _ ___ _ __ _ __ _ __ __ _ __ REASON:__ _ __ _ __ ___ _ __ _ __ _ __ __ _ __ _ ___ _ _  5) Do you have a food budget or allowance for food purchased on campus per day ?  Yes / No If yes, how much?  $0.0 0 - $2.99 _ __ _$ 3 .0 0 - $5.99 _ __ __ $ 6.0 0 - $9.9 9 __ _ __ $10 .0 0 +_ __ __  6 ) How would you rate the overall price of food on campus? Inexpensive______  Reasonable______ _  Moderately expensive______ _ Expensive______ _  7 ) Are you willing to spend more money on foods that are produced in an environmentally friendly way?   Yes / No  8 ) What age group are you in?  Under 18___ _ 18 -2 1_ _ __ 22 -2 5_ __ _ Over 25__ __  9 ) What gender are you?  Male / Female        Appendix 2     15   2) Dieti ti ans of Canada.  Practi ce.  In Can adian Journal of Dieteti c Pr acti ce and Resear ch.  Issue                                                15 Pa ge 6.  2001.  3) Farell Resea rch Group Ltd. UBC Food Servi ces . November 2000.  4) F arell Resea rch Group Ltd. UBC Food Servi ces : A Surve y of Food on C ampus . 1996.  5) Farell Resea rch Group Ltd. UBC Food Servi ces Mini -groups Ex ploring Custom erNeeds: A Summ ar y Report. 1996.  6) Universit y of Britis h Col umbi a. UBC Food Se rvices: Five Yea r Plan 2002 - 2006. F ebru ar y 2001.                   


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