Meet the coordinator the the UVSS Food Bank and Free Store, Jasmine Robertson! Jasmine is in her final year of an Honours BA in Political Science and Indigenous Studies. Originally from Vancouver BC, she was swayed to come to UVic for her love of the city, the ocean and cherry blossoms. She is passionate about working with children, and youth and is all about social justice. She aspires to work in a meaningful non-profit setting one day.
What is the UVic Food Bank and Free Store all about?
“We are all about FREE stuff: food, books, school supplies, clothes, small appliances, and much more. The Food Bank provides students with weekly access to grocery staples, emphasizing fresh foods (milk, bread, eggs, produce) and ingredients for cooking. Both the Food Bank & Free Store work towards waste diversion, trying to change perceptions of what is still useful or edible. Education, choice, and community are critical for us. We use our social media to change the conversation about food banks and food bank users and do our best to connect students to various resources on campus and beyond. We have learned a lot from our advocacy group neighbours in the SUB about creating safer spaces and addressing the barriers that many marginalized students face, and we pay extra attention to how accessibility needs to be a constant priority.”
About 300 students use the food bank every week, and all students have access. They are located in the basement of the SUB (B007). Jasmine started volunteering with the foodbank as a result of her roommates being involved in the creation of the Free Store! While they were waiting for the SUB space to become available, the Free Store temporarily residing in their house! She took on a work study position in the fall of 2014, and have been the coordinator since fall of 2015 with the assistant Courtney Striker (pictured on the right below).
As coordinator, the fun never stops. She oversees “the day-to-day operations of the food bank and I also take the lead on long-term food security goals. I manage volunteers, coordinate food orders/deliveries, field inquiries, lead staff meetings, and generally keep things running smoothly. I also build our community connections, attending events and meetings related to food security in the capital region and doing food pick ups around town”. She has developed extremely rewarding and enlightening community relationships and is inspired everyday by her hardworking volunteers.
How has the food bank grown since you started?
“A lot of changes have been made to our operations. We now have a steady volunteer base, expanded hours, and regular deliveries. We have massively diversified our food sources to include local grocery stores and lots of fresh food—and we are always seeking new partnerships. The number of students accessing the service has more than doubled, which is partly due to the way we’ve made the food bank more accessible, but also due to ever-increasing prices of tuition, housing, textbooks, food, and childcare. I think we have really established ourselves as an integral part of the student community, and a place where all are welcome.” Jasmine is also a founder of the Food Hub – a group of five student-led food-related organizations on campus that include: Community Cabbage, Community Garden, Edible Campus, UVSP (University of Victoria Sustainability Project), and the Food Bank. They meet regularly to share resources and support one another.
Being coordinator has not always been easy. Since beginning with the Food Bank the demand has increased considerably and its has been difficult with the constraints of the variety of resources need to keep their operation thriving such as staffing, donations, and monetary needs. She takes strides with these difficulties and uses them as opportunities to challenge herself and her team to reach out to the community and “think creatively about food reclamation and food sources”. Her favourite thing about the Food Bank is that it is “run for students, by students”. The importance of having our funding come from students enables a “campus culture where we care for one another, even if indirectly.”
As she comes to the end of her term as coordinator (due to graduation soon), she hopes the next coordinator continues to “build community partnerships and participate in work that promotes food security for students and our broader community” and keep the Food Bank as a thriving resource hub for students. Food access is their first priority as a food bank, but she emphasizes the need to also put “energy into a long-term vision for our campus where students can grow their own food, learn food skills, have accessible food options, and are well in their studies.” Education is a huge part of what they do, and she hopes her successor can continue that.
When not living in the basement of the SUB she loves working with kids. She believes that self-care and managing mental health are integral and vital parts of her life. She loves making food, hiking, and trying to find the best spots for sunrise and sunset. She has a passion for fighting the patriarchy and various social stigmas. She takes every opportunity as a learning opportunity and has had the chance to see all the amazing work being done by “Indigenous peoples, people of colour, queer and trans communities, people with disabilities and other people who are often underrepresented”.
Want to get involved with the Food Bank and Free Store?
Their main volunteer intake takes are in the beginning of May, September and January. The volunteer application form is on their website or you can email email@example.com for any questions, and of course drop by their space in the SUB. Jasmine recommends getting involved with the “Community Cabbage, the Community Garden, Edible Campus, and the UVic Sustainability Culture—all these organizations do so much to address food security on campus”.
Check out their facebook for many more cool updates on the superb work they do!