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UBC Undergraduate Research

Foundations for Campus Food Policy Council Janusz, Christine


The University of British Columbia (UBC) has a number of initiatives including the Food and Nutrition Committee, the Food Systems Project, and the Food Security Initiative, which work towards achieving a healthier local food system. While the forenamed coalitions are united in their interest to advance food system sustainability, they remain as separate entities and strive to meet different agendas. Due to the absence of an overarching campus strategy, these groups have recently expressed interest in strategic alignment to strengthen the collective work on campus. While many express eagerness to begin formulating plans for the creation of a campus-wide food coalition, there remains a profound need to first acquire a better understanding of the operations of existing food policy councils (FPC) across jurisdictions. To inform the preliminary efforts in creating a campus-wide coalition, an environmental scan on food committees was conducted along with a literature review on best practice approaches to food policy council systems and governance. Furthermore, key informant interviews were performed with university FPC members outside of UBC and UBC staff involved in the campus food system for insight and feedback to further inform foundational work in the development of a university-wide FPC. The literature review and environmental scan revealed that one of the greatest strengths of FPCs is their unique ability to be locally relevant and as such, coalitions take on a myriad of different forms and formulate varying agendas to address the needs and issues of their local food system. While the communities of each FPC possess their own unique assortment of issues, the ways in which FPCs tackle those issues are similar across the board. In most cases, FPCs design their agenda to include at least one the following three activities: (1) Influencing policy: Make a contribution by spearheading research and initiating community education campaigns that indirectly enable policy creation and change. (2) Launching programs: Implement their own program or serve as a catalyst by sharing their networks and resources with other organizations. (3) Educating on sustainability and food systems: Communicate principles of sustainable food systems with the public by participating in events and releasing information materials. However, while coalitions regularly hold gatherings to discuss these projects, many do not dedicate a time during their meetings to collectively evaluate their actions. When examining the structure of FPCs and their connection to government, multiple variations exist between the current coalitions. For example, organization structures vary from groups that depend entirely on volunteer time to groups capable of hiring full-time staff and from those that include a representation from the full range of food sectors to those that choose to restrict membership to certain food sectors. In the majority of cases, FPC have a solid representation from the production, distribution and consumption sectors of the food chain but lack input from processing and waste organizations sectors. Moreover, most food coalitions employ no staff or only one part-time staff person and heavily rely on volunteers to move their agenda forward. The environmental scan and literature also revealed the following eight approaches which notably contribute to a FPC’s ability to achieve its goals. 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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