Vancouver Island University (VIU), a small university located on Vancouver Island off the coast of British Columbia, Canada, has committed to a newfound focus on food security and global hunger. Because less than 10% of food that is consumed on Vancouver Island is also grown there, and the inhabitants are dependent on ferries for the constant supply of food, the stress and reality of food insecurity and global hunger are poignant topics. VIU decided to respond with a diversity of creative programs.
From a student glean team, to a pocket farmers’ market, to a campus wide symposium on global hunger, the little school is making big waves in the tide of the global food movement. VIU’s changes can be divided into three main categories: institutionalization, international engagement, and campus engagement.
To address complex needs that exist on campus and around the world, including student food insecurity and global malnutrition, VIU has created a new institutional identity where food truly matters.
Out of a cement patio rose a small yet mighty pocket Farmers’ Market, selling fresh (and extremely affordable) produce twice a week with free samples made by culinary arts students once a week. Funding was directed into student jobs to research the nutritional information for standard menu options in the cafeteria, and the ‘Frugal 5’er’ was introduced as a new menu option, offering half orders of any meal for only $5.
The food services administration are currently in the process of becoming Canada’s tenth Fair Trade Designated campus, (which mandates policies such as 100% of coffee on campus must be Fair Trade Certified), and the Campus Food Movement, (the school’s multi-stakeholder group that focuses on creating a healthy and sustainable campus food system), wrote an official strategy for the future.
Due to becoming an official member of UFWH, VIU is expanding its scope on food topics to a global perspective. During International Development Week 2015, VIU hosted FED Talks, (Food Education and Development) with speakers touching on topics from seed sovereignty, to the power of young farmers, to re-Indigenizing the global food movement. The instructors in the English Language Centre also dedicated portions of their class to topics of global hunger – inspiring new perspectives for hundreds of international students.
Never before have VIU students been so involved with food on campus – over 20 classes dedicated a lecture, an assignment, or perhaps even the entire curriculum to food and hunger issues, spanning across a variety of faculties and departments. If students would rather take a break from studying, Campus Recreation now offers a field trip every two weeks to a local farm. Now, in addition to surfing, white water kayaking and rock climbing, students can head out to the community farm to get their hands dirty and take home a minimum of $20 worth of food picked fresh from the field.
The VIU Glean Team is another opportunity that connects volunteers with fruit and nut trees in the community. Students pick excess produce, take any amount they need, and donate the rest to other students at campus events. Over 500 pounds of free, locally sourced, fresh food was made accessible to VIU students in the first year of the program.
VIU isn’t stopping there – projects such as a healthy campus food bank, and a pay-what-you-can café are currently under works. The momentum is rising, and as VIU finds its place in the global movement of Universities Fighting World Hunger, it will continue to thrive.