Prof. Bomke has helped make UBC into a living lab to study food systems - photo by Darin Dueck
UBC Reports | Vol. 52 | No. 4 | Apr. 6, 2006
Courses Examine Food Systems Close to Home
By Art Bomke
Associate Professor, and
Senior Instructor, Faculty of Land and Food Systems
The global food system that currently serves UBC and its region has delivered large volumes of low-cost food, but is also implicated in the health issues that flow from over and under-consumption and faces many challenges to its sustainability. Not the least of these challenges are the costs of long distance transportation of food and the separation of the vast majority of people from the sources of their sustenance.
Food security and sustainable food systems have become central concerns in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems (FLFS, formerly Agricultural Sciences), at UBC. This is the result of our Faculty’s transformation to a more explicit focus on “human health, a sustainable food supply and the responsible use of finite land and water resources using student-centred learning and interdisciplinary perspectives.” Instructors and students in the FLFS Land, Food and Community core curriculum have mounted two initiatives, The Food Security Project in the City of Vancouver and the UBC Food System Project, aimed at providing our students with a solid understanding of the ecological, social and economic sustainability of food systems.
The Collaborative Project on Food Security in the City of Vancouver
This Community-Based Action Research Project explores approaches for reconnecting food, human health and environmental health to improve food security and, secondly and more specifically, by contributing to the City of Vancouver’s efforts to enhance food security and sustainability.
This project involves collaboration with the adjacent community, the Vancouver School Board and the City of Vancouver to share and produce knowledge about the existing situation and devise and implement action plans for transition to greater food security and food system sustainability.
The UBC Food System Project
The initial idea for this course was to link the Faculty’s curriculum with the UBC Farm on the UBC South Campus. However, the teaching team’s original idea evolved to recognize the UBC Farm as one thread of a larger tapestry: the UBC food system. Thus, the central theme of the course became the problem of the overall sustainability of the UBC food system.
We saw the UBC food system as a microcosm of, and interrelated to, the global food system. Given its area and rapidly increasing population, we felt that assessments of the sustainability of the UBC Vancouver campus and its evolving “University Town” development must include consideration of how the “Town” will be fed and how this can inform its land use and institutional food system.
The UBC Food Security Project is the first project at a university in Canada to come up with sustainability principles and to connect students with the major stakeholders - the departments and people who manage the food, the campus farm, and the waste at the university. Besides the team from the FLFS, and the UBC Campus Sustainability Office’s SEEDS Program, initiators of the UBC Food System Project, the other partners in the project are UBC Food Services, the Alma Mater Society’s Food & Beverages Department, UBC Farm (Centre for Sustainable Food Systems), UBC Waste Management, UBC Campus and Community Planning.
Both the Collaborative Project on Food Security in Vancouver and the UBC Food Security Project are intended to connect our students and instructors’ teaching and learning objectives with the immediate environment and the people of the region. UBC and British Columbia, in general, are in an era of unprecedented growth and facing challenges to the sustainability of our agriculture and human settlements. The core values of our Faculty demand that we connect ourselves and our students with the nutrition and health of our population and the sustainability of our campus and community food systems.