What started as a Directed Study Course in the Fall of 2007 at the University of British Columbia, has now turned into an event that students continue to look forward to every other Friday. From September to April, Community Eats is held at Sprouts in the Student Union Building (SUB) and attracts over 250 students, faculty and staff members as well as those who live within the UBC campus.
“In some ways it has been more than what we expected,” comments the Director of Community Eats, Renee Wild, “ there has been an increase of an average of 60 people per Community Eats since the end of last year.”
Renee is just one of many volunteers who helps to continue to make Community Eats an appreciated and educational lunch for everyone in the UBC community.
The idea behind Community Eats is simple. Everyone receives a free or by donation, nutritious hot lunch – provided they bring their own reusable containers. While serving a delicious hearty stew, quinoa salad, fruit or donated bread from Terra Breads, one will learn about food security and available locally grown seasonal products.
Not only do so many people enjoy eating the lunch provided by Community Eats, the lunch is also delivered in a way that maximizes sustainability. Whether the volunteers are picking up bread through the bike coop program, taking a bus to the nearby Save on Foods or encouraging students to use only reusable containers, Community Eats is a well balanced initiative.
With the aid of local businesses, Community Eats is able to host lunches every other Friday. The event and the student volunteers have developed a strong partnership with local businesses and are very thankful that the following organizations are involved: BC Bike Coop, Save on Foods, Sprouts, Terra Breads and the UBC Farm are just to name a few. Not only does Community Eats benefit from receiving the donated food, but the employees at these businesses feel as though it is the right decision, “I am very thankful that you guys are picking up this food, it really means a lot to me” comments an employee at the newest Save on Foods at UBC, “…food that would have otherwise been thrown out.”
As an added incentive to support Community Eats, the remaining unused bread and/or produce will go directly to the UBC Food Bank. This year, the program is trying to indirectly make a difference in someone else’s life. Any leftover or unused food will go directly to the UBC Food Bank which is located just across from Sprouts.
We can thank a group of volunteers for making this event a success. Those people who pick up food every Wednesday prior to the event, and start cooking the very next day with ingredients they have on hand. The volunteers rely on the kitchen space on the main floor of the SUB. Depending on the produce they receive, the lunch is usually thrown together and surprisingly turns out to be a tasty and nutritious lunch. The cooking portion of Community Eats is a creative and social process, in which the volunteers are keen on sharing their recipe with others.
The intentions of Community Eats, not only encourages dialogue about food security issues, but “is one of the best lunches you can get around UBC – and it’s healthy too!”
comments a fourth year undergraduate student at UBC.
I experienced my first Community Eats about a month ago and was amazed at how popular it was. Lines ups were found nearing The Fringe Hair Design, students who appeared to be regulars, were waving and saying hello, and others were just excited to see what was on the menu. Laughter and excitement was heard throughout as well as students reading the educational components posted outside the door and on the nearby walls.
The surrounding environment was so uplifting I certainly believe that “…the power of food is used as a tool for building communities.”
“Since we don’t pay for the produce we use to cook and we have volunteers who organize the event, we don’t want students to have to pay for it,” explains Wild, “however, it’s not often that we’re able to collect staple foods (such as rice, beans and lentils) so we order it through Sprouts.”
The only reason they collect donations at Community Eats lunches is to help cover the oversets of these staple items.
From finding distributors, to picking up the food, to preparing the actual meal, the entire lunch is brought to you by student volunteers.
The volunteers help promote the anticipated vision of the whole event presented by the founders Caitlin Dorward and Heather Russell back in 2007. Wild explains the visionary process of Community Eats, “Picture it as a three fold. We serve people who wouldn’t normally get a healthy balanced lunch, a meal that is full of proteins and lots of veggies. Second, to use food that would otherwise be thrown away and to ultimately reduce waste. Lastly, Community Eats helps to create awareness about food security and how much food, styrofoam containers and cutlery is actually going to waste.”
The plan has lived up to what the founders have envisioned and are continuing to learn and improve the event.
Community Eats is just one tool to create awareness about food security issues. Without it, an immeasurable amount of food would be thrown out. Many students are drawn to the event because it is free. I strongly believe that if there was a cost associated with the lunch, it may deter people from coming and it goes against the main message that is being conveyed.
Since Sprouts has reopened its doors earlier this year, Community Eats lunches have continued to strive. Sure they would like to improve their main vision of the event, but overall it has been very successful. They are also planning to have Community Eats on a weekly basis starting in the New Year. “It has always been a goal to do it every week” comments Wild, “and with more interest in volunteering in the program, hopefully it will start to happen in January.”
Since its first lunch on October 26th, 2007,
the project has escalated and has become an event students look forward to. To some, it has changed the way they view food and have become consciously aware of what they eat.
If you are also interested in supporting Community Eats, they will soon be looking for volunteers for the newest Assistant Director positions. But if that is not of interest to you, stop by at the next Community Eats and experience what everyone has been talking about!
Dorward, Caitlin, and Heather Russell. “Community Eats Handbook.” Community Eats.
University of British Columbia, Mar. 2008. Web. 28 Nov. 2009. <http://
Wild, Renne. “Community Eats.” Community Eats. Blogger, 2008. Web. 28 Nov. 2009. <http://
Wild, Renee. “Community Eats.” Sprouts: Healthy and Sustainable Food at UBC. UBC Sprouts,
2008. Web. 28 Nov. 2009. <http://ubcsprouts.ca/communityeats.html>.
Wild, Renee. “Why Free? Why Donate?” Web log post. Community Eats. Blogger, 6 Feb. 2008.
Web. 28 Nov. 2009. <http://communityeats.blogspot.com/>.