Skip to content

Smart meals: An innovative approach to food insecurity at UBC Okanagan

Smart meals provides 240 vegetarian meals to students for $5, every Tuesday, Thursday at UBCO, now looking for community support
UBC Student Union Okanagan (SUO) has implemented innovative approach to food insecurity. (Jacqueline Gelineau/Black Press Media)

People cannot focus on their education when they are worried about where their next meal will come from, says the UBC Student Union Okanagan (SUO).

To combat food insecurity on campus, the student-driven organization has implemented innovative approaches including the twice-weekly $5 smart meal program. However, the program is at risk of being cancelled due to a lack of funding and the SUO is looking for community support.

About 43 per cent of undergraduate students experience food insecurity due in part to a high cost of living, said SUO vice-president external Lakshay Karnwal.

Experiencing food insecurity means that a person does not know where their next meal will come from and may skip meals to afford other necessities like rent.

“That is a burden and a lot to ask of a student when they are expected to perform at the university and study,” said Karenwal.

He explained that many students work before or after classes and still are faced with the decision of paying their rent or for nutritious food.

“In our survey, a lot of students said that they would have skipped a meal if they didn’t have this option on campus. So, they would have gone without a meal and how are you supposed to perform at your best if you’re hungry or worried about food?,” said Rishan Pfaender, faculty of applied science representative for the SUO.

The smart meals initiative is a partnership that is subsidized by the SUO with on-campus restaurants Fusion Express, Koi Sushi, J’s Cafe and The Well, which provides 240 vegetarian meals to students for $5, every Tuesday and Thursday. The meals sell out every day and the program is now on its second term after a successful debut.

Despite the program’s success, securing funding is a challenge and the future of the smart meals initiative is not guaranteed.

The student union is now looking for sponsors to help keep the initiative running. People or organizations looking to fund the initiative can learn more and contact the SUO at

Students are also able to access emergency food and essentials at the Pantry Student Food Bank, located at UNC 131, beside the SUO office, during the week from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. For more information visit

“We see approximately 100 students every day using the room itself,” said Stephanie Patterson, food security and nutrition manager for the Student Union Okanagan. Patterson runs the on-campus Pantry Student Food Bank where people experiencing food insecurity can access non-perishable food items throughout the week.

The Student Food Bank also offers a weekly hamper program that approximately 40 students access regularly.

To sign up for the hamper or to donate, contact

READ MORE: RCMP recommend charges in Kelowna fatal crane collapse

READ MORE: Lake Country’s new CAO gets straight to work at UBCM housing summit

Jacqueline Gelineau

About the Author: Jacqueline Gelineau

I'm a reporter in the beginning stages of my career. I joined the team at Capital News in November 2021...
Read more