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UBC Undergraduate Research

Giving Food Insecurity a Voice : Student Lived Experiences Dela Cruz, Lyncee; Vela, Miluska Bravo; Udeze, Ojinika; Ahmed, Hafsa


Scientific Justification: Food insecurity continues to be a pressing matter in the Canadian context. However, a population that has been overlooked and constitutes one of the most vulnerable groups are post-secondary students (UBC, Report to the Board of Governors, 2019). An Undergraduate Experience Survey (UES) conducted at UBC identified that approximately 40% of the participants were food insecure (Rideout and James, 2017; UBC Report to the Board of Governors, 2019). Notwithstanding, little is known regarding UBC’s food insecure students. Overall goals: The following research project was carried out in collaboration with UBC Wellbeing with the goal to collect lived experiences from specific student demographic groups at higher risk of food insecurity: Graduate, International, LGBTQIA2S+ and Diversability students. Specific Objectives: 1. Collect lived food-insecurity experiences from students on the Vancouver UBC campus, including factors that contributed to food insecurity, how it impacted their academic activities, coping strategies, their knowledge of resources available to them and their recommendations for reducing food-insecurity on campus. 2. Elevate voices of the general study body and specific demographic groups at higher risk of food-insecurity, including international, LGBTQ, and graduate students and students with diversabilities at UBC. 3. Develop recommendations to tackle food insecurity on campus informed by the experiences collected. 4. Propose an advocacy tool that can be used to share student’s food insecurity experiences using collected lived experiences (primary data) and literary recommendations and suggestions (secondary data). Methods: The lived experiences of food insecure students were primarily collected through an online survey and supplemented with a focus group session. Both research methods were advertised through paper and digital posters across campus, and the project was broadcasted and highlighted on various faculty e-newsletters. The research team designed a screening tool to determine whether participants qualified as food insecure, only data from participants that qualified as food insecure was analysed. Secondary data was collected in order to supplement primary key findings and validate the results. Specifically, the impacts of food insecurity on students found in the secondary data mirrored the major themes found in this study. Conclusion: Results showed 47% of the respondents were food insecure, many of their concerns revolved around de-stigmatization of food insecurity and a greater awareness of available resources. Therefore, the first recommendation for action is based on increasing awareness of food insecurity on campus. To accomplish this, two advocacy tools are proposed: 1) digital signage that incorporates storyboards and infographics containing real data from this study and 2) a video series on food insecurity. The second recommendation is increasing awareness and accessibility of resources on campus which can be accomplished by increasing the “Sustainable Food Access Fund''. For future research, we recommend a stronger emphasis should be placed on reaching out to the underrepresented groups in this study by building stronger connections with their respective communities. These recommendations will help UBC Wellbeing achieve the target of reducing food insecurity for UBC community members by 2025. 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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