UBC Undergraduate Research

Promoting Campus Food Security through Food Recovery : An Evaluation of the UBC Food Recovery Pilot Program Truong, Amalee; Ebert, Lauren; Yu, Crystal; Yoshii, Kaori; Turk, Bryna


Food waste is a complex issue that actively impacts the social, economic, health, and environmental domains of our planet. Each year in Canada, an estimated 35.5 million metric tons of food is lost or wasted, of which 11.2 million metric tons is considered avoidable (Second Harvest, 2019). Edible food that is necessarily wasted in Canada also contributes 56.6 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions annually (Global Alliance for the Future of Food, 2022). While this food is being wasted, food insecurity, defined as inadequate or insecure access to food due to financial constraints, persists in Canada (Tarasuk & Mitchell, 2020). On the UBC campus, 38.5% of students identify themselves as food insecure (Carry et al., 2019). To address these interrelated problems, the practice of recovering edible food for consumption with the co-benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting food security. In response to the pervasive issues of food waste, food insecurity, and climate change, the UBC Food Recovery Program was created in 2020. This program is a new initiative that recovers food from Open Kitchen Residence Dining Hall through a partnership with UBC Food Services, UBC SEEDS, UBC Seeders, and UBC Sprouts. Recovered food is transported by student volunteers at UBC Seeder to UBC Sprouts who distribute the food to the UBC community through their Community Eats program. Given that this program is new, UBC Food Services has identified a need to evaluate its progress and to learn from other food recovery programs. Within this context, this research project aimed to help advance food recovery on the UBC Campus that reduces food waste and promotes food recovery. The goal of this research was to evaluate the current pilot program and to create a guideline that has relevant focus areas, priorities, and recommendations for the program. Our objectives for this research were to 1) identify promising practices and challenges of other food recovery programs 2) assess the impacts, costs and benefits, and challenges of the UBC Food Recovery Pilot Program 3) Identify focus areas, priorities, and recommendations to create a guideline which will inform the development of a Campus Food Recovery Strategy. To conduct our research, we applied a Community-Based Action Research (CBAR) framework to actively collaborate with our project partners and build towards social change together (Clark and Ventures, 2016). We engaged with various groups both on and off the UBC campus that were directly involved in the issues of food recovery and food insecurity. Our research included both primary and secondary data collection. Our primary data was collected through interviews with stakeholders involved in the UBC Food Recovery Pilot Program including UBC Food Services, Open Kitchen, UBC Seeder, UBC Sprouts and Vancouver Food Runners. We also met with AMS Catering, who are not directly involved in the pilot program, but had relevant insights. Our second group of interviews were with other campus food recovery programs including Colorado State University, Washington State University, MealCare, and the University of California San Diego. Our secondary data was collected through an environmental scan of challenges and promising practices of other food recovery programs in Canada and the United States. The recurring themes found in both our primary and secondary data include considerations around food recovery logistics, funding, food safety and liability, volunteer recruitment and sustainability, food waste recording, and campus food policy. Drawing from these themes, we created recommendations to help solidify the sustainability of the UBC Food Recovery Pilot Program. Our immediate recommendations include creating a mission statement to help define and guide the program, streamlining communication between project partners, solidifying the program logistics, efficiently monitoring and reporting the recovered food, sharing the program’s impact, and increasing staff awareness and education. In the midterm, we recommend involving Vancouver Food Runners in the program to provide sustainable transportation, incorporating the recovery of catered foods in future food recovery guidelines, and building a relationship with UBC Community Food Hub. In the long-term, funding to support a position directly related to managing food waste and recovery would help ensure the longevity and viability of the program. 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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