From fair-trade coffee to composting to the Farm, a new UBC Sustainable Campus Food Guide introduces students, faculty and staff to the campus food system, a pioneer in sustainable practices.

“There are opportunities to support a more sustainable food system all across the UBC campus,” says Liska Richer, Program Coordinator of the UBC SEEDS Program at Campus Sustainability. “You can buy local, organic or fair-trade products, or garden at the UBC Farm or the LFS Orchard Garden, or learn how to prepare a homemade meal at Sprouts or Agora Café. Food providers such as UBC Food Services and the AMS Food and Beverage Department have been improving their offerings for over ten years, so that UBC now offers only fair-trade coffee and tea (except at Tim Hortons), all whole fruit is either local or fair-trade, all whole eggs served on campus are cage-free—and this is just a snapshot of what I like to call the UBC food movement.”

It’s an impressive record of positive developments. However, much of the wider UBC community isn’t aware of it. That’s why the UBC Food System Project decided to create the first-ever UBC Sustainable Campus Food Guide, a tool to help increase awareness of what is happening at UBC. The hope is that the guide can increase the wider community’s knowledge, attitudes and practices around food system sustainability and increase the visibility of the various initiatives on campus.

Telling the UBC Food Story

Like the many Social Ecological Economic Development Studies (SEEDS) projects now taking place on campus, the food guide is a unique partnership between faculty (students in Land and Food Systems), staff (UBC Farm, UBC Food Services, and others) and Campus Sustainability, which oversees SEEDS. It is also part of the UBC Food System Project (UBCFSP), a larger SEEDS project involving ten departments on campus that aims to enhance the sustainability of our food system. UBCFSP was launched in 2001, and more than 2,000 students have now participated in it.

“The whole campus foodscape has changed immensely over the last few years,” says Sophia Baker-French, a dietician, SEEDS Project Coordinator and instructor in Land and Food Systems. “Two years ago, we held a big meeting with our main stakeholders: the AMS, Food Services, people from the Farm, other smaller groups. We realized that we needed to do a better job of telling our story—what’s happening on campus, what’s available, generally raising awareness and hopefully encouraging more people to discover what’s out there.”

A Student Project for the Whole Campus

In Spring 2012, two groups of students in Land and Food Systems 450 began preparing content for the guide. Last summer and fall Richer and Baker-French prepared additional content, which was then critiqued and improved by the various stakeholders on campus. The design was completed this fall, thanks to a grant from the AMS Sustainability Fund.

The finished guide is now available on the SEEDS UBCFSP  website and the Food section of the Campus Sustainability  website and as a print document. Only a few copies were printed, to be showcased at foodie hotspots and events; it’s primarily an electronic file that people can download and consult on their computers and phones. That’s part of the sustainability of the project.

Towards a Utopian Food System

The guide begins by describing a utopian food system, one where all food is local, organic and nutritious, animals are treated humanely, the system produces no waste and is energy neutral, and so on. Then it looks at what UBC is doing to reach these ideal goals, and suggests ways people on campus can get involved.

 “Everyone is focused on what is reasonable and can actually be put into action,” explains Baker-French. “Looking at other universities, there are a lot of interesting projects going on, but UBC’s Food System Project is pretty unique and advanced, in engaging students in facilitating the operational and academic sides on campus to come together to alter the whole system and move it towards sustainability.

“Of course, we can’t ever really say we’re 100% sustainable—that’s an ideal, something to work towards. And the guide is a big step in the right direction.

Find out more about the UBC Food System Project.