Plant based food, image provided by Parade

Over the summer, the SUO’s Vice President Internal, Shiven Khera, and Director at Large, Priscilla Uribe, advocated for a sustainable change to the management of student associations. They contrived to create a fund that will directly affect (in a positive way) all clubs and course unions on campus. From the research and discussions put out by UBC’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) 2030, which primarily revolved around ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on campus, the attendees figured out that the consumption of food on campus played a major role in the release of emissions at both UBC and UBCO. With $30,000 put into the Membership Outreach Sustainability Fund, student associations have a chance to get reimbursed for the plant based food they purchase. Shiven Khera adds, “This fund is SUO's direction to reduce that [the emissions produced by food consumption]. The way we do it is we encourage our student associations, all our clubs and course unions, to incorporate climate friendly (i.e. plant based) food in their events.” The clubs and course unions will get fully reimbursed up to $600 annually if they commit to this action.

Shiven says that this fund will help break down three barriers when it comes to including more plant based products at events hosted by student associations:

> Affordability

> Accessibility

> Difficulty in identifying the demand

Shiven’s responses to these barriers are as follows, “In terms of affordability, it [climate friendly food] is free; it’s reimbursable. In terms of accessibility, we have created a handbook. We've come up with places where people can order from, and people who’ve partnered with us in this fund. So, we have a list of restaurants that have been emailed to all clubs and course unions. In terms of the demand, this is something that we want to generate as well. Given it's a big incentive and it's free for clubs and course unions, we [the SUO] feel it's a big way of putting things together and creating this community where we actually, as a university, move forward.”

Shiven noted that the list is merely a guide, and not an exhaustive means of information. However, the list not only emphasizes environmentally friendly locations, but local businesses as well; highlighting the fact that this will help not only the campus, but Kelowna’s community as a whole.

Because of Covid-19, says Shiven, “we haven't pushed hard on getting this fund out. Given that restrictions have come down quite a bit and will continue to go down, hopefully, we’re going to push a lot harder starting now. In January we will actually start a contest. We're still figuring out  how we can do it, but the idea is if a club or if multiple clubs get all their $600 done within a certain time frame, then they can actually be eligible for another $1000 or something like that. We're trying to come up with certain contests to promote the fund so the associations can use it as much as possible and so that we can show the board that this is something that it’s a big need that students want”

Additionally, the SUO has made the reimbursement process simple. Similar to how student associations go about getting reimbursed for their other purchases, they will need to fill out a form specifically for the Membership Outreach Sustainability fund, attach their receipts, and hand it in to the membership outreach coordinator.

On a separate note, Shiven and Priscilla have also created the Plant Forward Monday initiative.

They are advocating for more climate friendly options at Pritchard, the dining hall in Nechako. Shiven says, "On one specific day of the week, we want them [the administration and UBC] to bring in as many climate friendly options as they can. And then, we want to create awareness and encourage students to be a part of it and take advantage of it. We will also try doing this with our own SUO (those in the UNC) businesses that are interested. We will do a whole campaign around why it [plant based food] is good for your mental health, why this is something that's good for the planet, and why this is something that's good for your own personal and physical health. So, we want to create that community […] hopefully, if the response on Monday is good, then we can push the administration to do it on other days.”

When asked whether this initiative has started yet, Shiven responded by acknowledging the concerns the student’s had over the past few months about the quality of food in Pritchard. Shiven adds, “Obviously we want to make sure that, if students are engaging with plant forward food, it's done in the best light. We don't want this to backfire in any way. Given now that the situation has been looked into and the food quality is getting better, we want to bring a bigger push. So, you'll see a much bigger and more comprehensive campaign starting in January.”

When asked at the end of Shiven's interview if there was anything he wanted to add, he said: “This [the fund] is one of the first in Canada. This is something that has been researched a lot by the CAP 2030 group, and something that I have personally experienced. I was at the University of Cambridge in 2019, and when I was studying there they actually had a very similar program that had been running for two years and was very successful. I really want all our clubs to make use of this funding, as well as create a healthy culture around climate friendly food.

“Hopefully, if our university and students engage with it [the fund and the initiative] and there is success, then other universities can take inspiration from this. If we have the results, what I can promise to the student body, as a vice president internal, is to reach out to other student unions and their vice president internals or externals and let them know that we did this, and this was highly successful. I'm happy to take on that role.”

All clubs and course unions, listen up. You can get more funding if you commit to purchasing more plant based options at your next event. Who wouldn’t want an extra $600 at their disposal?