UBC Undergraduate Research

The sustainability of the UBC Food System Collaborative Project III Alkema, Arlana; Chong, Danielle; Huang, Ernie; Law, Cora; Mak, Jennifer; Sakai, Alanna; Vilaysane, Patricia


The Faculty of Agricultural Sciences is the first educational community at the University of British Columbia (UBC) that recognizes the importance of evaluating the sustainability of the entire food system. In order to fulfill the goals for the five year study of the UBC food system, the Agricultural Sciences 450 (AGSC 450) class of 2004 is appointed to develop appropriate research methods for use by future AGSC 450 students in the continuation of the pilot study. The specific task for our group is to establish a method of eliciting the perceptions of UBC customers within the campus community in regards to the pricing of food. Our ultimate objective is to move towards a more sustainable food system, while keeping a balance of benefits between UBC food customers and suppliers. The model developed by Group 14 in 2003 is the best representation of our group vision of sustainability and thus we chose it to assist our research design. Any critical analyses and assessments require us to acknowledge our underlying ethical perspectives. A weak anthropocentric view is reflected in our research methods, as our group is in consensus that meeting basic human needs shall only take priority if extreme exploitations of our natural world are avoided. Therefore, we have attempted to incorporate the ecological aspects of sustainability, as well as the social and economic aspects into our research instruments. Since Group 14 indicators are designed to assess the sustainability of the entire UBC food system, it is necessary to further expand on their indicators in order to specifically determine the perceptions of customers regarding the price of food at UBC. We have designed two questionnaires and an interview guide that target the UBC community. The accumulated results of these research tools will become important inputs for our chosen economic models. These economic models are critical instruments for evaluating the benefits and costs of implementing plans for a more sustainable food system. At this stage, we lack information and evidence to succinctly state the basic problems regarding food prices at UBC. Our group hopes that after conducting our methods of research and benefit-cost analysis we can both adequately define whether customers have issues with current food prices at UBC and assess whether a change in prices to reflect the implementation of sustainability practices will be accepted. 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.”

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