Written by: Karissa Ketter, News Writer
Editor’s note: a previous version of this article stated that the distribution schedule was on the Embark Sustainability website, while the sign-up for the program was on the SFU Food Hub website. This article has been edited for clarity to reflect that sign-ups for the Burnaby and Surrey campuses are on different websites.
SFU’s Farm to Campus program supports local farming by purchasing discounted off-grade produce. They then distribute the fresh produce to students on the Burnaby and Surrey Campuses.
In an interview with The Peak, Coordinator, Civic and Community Engagement in External Relations Tara Flynn, said that at the Burnaby Neighborhood House, there were “quite a few SFU students [who] were coming down and [ . . . ] requesting food.”
Ali White, Executive Director at Embark Sustainability Society, told The Peak that the project initially began last year, however, “Because of the pandemic [ . . . ] food security has been even more of a challenge for students.”
Community partners such as Embark, TD Community Engagement Centre, the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS), and Offbeat Produce, amongst others, have worked together to organize the program. White noted that “food security is social sustainability” and “ensuring that [the] students are nourished” is a top priority for Embark Sustainability.
White said that this initiative combats local food waste. Due to preference for symmetrical produce in grocery stores, “Mounds of produce” end up “[rotting] on the fields.” In addition, local “farmers are often in debt or not making the proceeds that they need to sustain themselves because they are not able to sell a bunch of their crops,” according to White.
Due to the restrictions set in place for COVID-19, Farm to Campus is currently operating out of the SFU Food Hub on the Burnaby campus and in the SRYE building on the Surrey campus. White outlined that their protocols ensure all volunteers are wearing masks, regularly using hand sanitizer, and maintaining distance.
Flynn said that at Burnaby Campus, students are asked to “sign up a week in advance so that [they] know roughly how much food to bring up the mountain.” At the Surrey Campus, students can pay for a weekly subscription ranging from $3 to $8 to support the program. Volunteers separate and hand out food in brown paper bags to each student, limiting the amount of people handling the produce.
While the project is currently aiding between 25 to 75 people per week, it aims to expand in the near future, according to Flynn. She added in an email statement that while the Greater Vancouver Food Bank “makes up a very large proportion of the food that is given to students” they have a difficult time obtaining fresh produce. Flynn hopes to have the Farm to Campus Program, Embark’s Food Rescue program, and the GVBF run Food Hub through the SFSS to join together in a collective program, permanently bringing food to students.
Community partners for the SFU Food Hub include: The SFU Office of Community Engagement, SFSS, Burnaby Neighbourhood House, United Way of Lower Mainland, GVFB, Offbeat Produce, Embark, Sustainability Office, and Food Systems Lab.
Community partners for the Farm-to-Campus initiative in Surrey include: SFU Surrey-TD Community Engagement Centre and Embark Sustainability Society, and is supported by the Plot Sharing Garden, Offbeat Produce, the SFU Office of Sustainability, and the SFU Food Systems Lab. Flynn gives special thanks to the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) and SFU Surrey Administrative Office.