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UBC Undergraduate Research

Thriving Community Food Hubs : Promising Practices and Innovative Organizational Models Fazal, Zahra; Featherstone, Damara; Gerbrandt, Laurena; McLester, Kristen; Yu, Bonny

Abstract

At the University of British Columbia, food insecurity is a significant equity issue, impacting students' mental and physical health, making them more likely to drop out and ultimately impacting their long-term employment. Prior to 2021, UBC had many short-term emergency food supports in place, however, there was fragmentation among initiatives and an absence of a student-wide initiative. In 2021, the Food Security Initiative at UBC Vancouver launched the digital community food hub as one of the steps toward increasing community food security and bridging the fragmentation between previously instilled initiatives. Our team was tasked with the goal of identifying promising governance structures, organizational models, and areas of need within the community in order to inform the development of a physical community food hub that promotes campus food security, dignified food access, health and wellbeing. The role of a well-functioning, equitable governance structure and organizational model is a significant determining factor of the operational effectiveness and likelihood that the community food hub will deliver on its goals of promoting a food-secure campus. We achieved these goals through primary and secondary research methods. Secondary research was performed through literature reviews, environmental scans, and reviewing secondary data. Primary research was conducted through 8 interviews with relevant organizations, and 1 focus group with members of the food security initiative. We found that 100% (n=8) of organizations identified as student-led, with 75% (n=6) of organizations being entirely student-led and run. Similarly, 63% (n=5) of organizations identified as having no compensated positions. These findings presented challenges to these organizations which stated issues pertaining to workload, expectations, and transitions between student roles. These findings were similar among analogous institutions found in literature. While the most common organizational structure was hierarchy, the most notable mentioned was a teal organization. Teal organizations are characterized by intuitive reasoning, decentralized decision making, and self-management. These characteristics acknowledge the need for diverse workloads and provide greater autonomy to students in decision making processes. Moreover, the characteristics of the advice process allows for anyone within an organization to make decisions so long as those who are affected, and those with the most expertise on the topic are consulted. Given the dynamic nature of teal organizations, we suggest incorporating social audits into the operations of the food hub. Social audits are used as a tool and process mechanism for accountability and ensures all stakeholders’ voices and, in particular, ones that are often underrepresented in addressing social accountability of an organization. Ultimately, in order to address the goals of the UBC community food hub, we suggest adopting an organizational model that blends flat and teal characteristics. Teal based organizational structures offer fluidity and diverse task loads that provide students with greater autonomy and input in a post-secondary institutional space whereas flat organizational models offer structure and support for student roles. Together, these organizational characteristics offer promising practices for the UBC CFH which promotes campus food security, dignified food access, health and wellbeing. 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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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International