Food Security on Campus

Food Security on Campus: An Interview by Nancy Jiayi Lu

“The Pantry Food Bank is run by the Student Union Okanagan, which is a separate organization within UBCO. It is mostly volunteers and students who volunteer for short periods or they can volunteer over the whole year. We do a shift system for stocking pantries and we also have one part-time position that works at the pantry,” explained Stephanie Patterson, manager of the Pantry Food Bank. 

Food insecurity is a long-term issue that many postsecondary students are facing before, during and after the lockdown due to COVID-19. “Food security is many different things. It’s not defined by just people who can’t afford to eat at all. There’s sort of a broad misunderstanding of what food security means. So, it could be anything from you know, you just forgot your lunch that day or maybe you can’t afford to buy groceries for that week,” says Patterson. Food insecurity is not only a concern of domestic students but also international students. According to a survey at UBC in 2016, 45% of undergraduate students reported food insecurity on campus. (“Food Security Research at UBC,” n.d.)

A short-term solution that many communities are providing is a food bank. UBCO Student Union took over the pantry in 2019, and they are working to develop a bigger capacity for students and the community. So far, the food bank has a small space that students can access at UNC. They also provide hampers, in which students can request special food and other items that they have an urgent need for. The food bank is also planning a possible food hub, which can come in many different forms such as a pantry. “We’re hoping to expand it in terms of space and who can visit,” says Patterson. 

In terms of student engagement, the Foodbank did a food drive, called “The Taste of Home” with the library on campus. They collected different types of food from the community to include more culturally diverse food. Also, the Pantry Food Bank has been partnering with UBCO student-athletes and teams for food drives; they set up collection bins at each home game. Besides student involvement, the pantry food bank is dependent on other departments on campus and community partnerships. Parking services offer students a choice to donate food instead of paying fines. The University Christian Ministries have “Trick or Eat” events at Halloween where neighborhoods can donate food. In terms of community partnerships, the Pantry Food Bank is partnering with Mamas for Mamas, which is a national charitable organization that provides support for individuals and families to tackle poverty and make a positive impact on communities. 

“Pantry Food Banks provide no barrier opportunities for people to go and get the food they need, whether it be just for the moment or maybe they need a few items to get them through the week. Students can go in and use it. It’s not a big solution but it helps students,” explains Patterson. Nonetheless, food banks are not long-term solutions for food insecurity. The more people and organizations that are involved in fighting food insecurity, the more we can address the problem and directly help people. We all need to be aware of this issue and work together towards a better solution. 


Patterson, Stephanie. (March 2022). Interview conducted by Nancy Jiayi Lu.

UBC Wellbeing. (2022). Food security research at UBC.

About the author: Nancy Jiayi Lu is an undergraduate student majoring in Psychology in the Faculty of Science at UBC Okanagan.


Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash


Representing Nature

Representing Nature in an Illustrated Khamseh of Nezami Manuscript by Yasaman Lotfizadeh

Interpretations of equity: Nature, spirituality and stories of companionship
On her way to completing a Masters in Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies, Yasaman Lotfizadeh weaves art history, environmental humanities and digital humanities to look back in time at illustrations of a Persian book of poetry from five hundred years ago. This research draws attention to often overlooked Persian illustrated manuscripts that are rich depictions of nature in art. They also highlight inequities of representation, for example, the underrepresentation of women and power negotiation between humans and the natural world. Read an excerpt of this scholarship and two stories from the illustrated Khamseh of Nezami manuscript.
About the research

My research seeks to understand how Islamic art is adjusting to the digital turn. Art history, environmental humanities and the digital humanities generally pay little attention to the arts of the Islamic world. Art history scholars are now using computational and digital tools to analyze historical subjects and with the increase in these tools’ development, reflecting on their limitations is also critical. 

This work recognizes and uncovers less studied Persian illustrated manuscripts yet to be acknowledged in digital humanities scholarship. The usefulness of digital humanities tools and theories in studying Islamic and Persian paintings’ text-image relationships is still limited, although there are researchers who have recently attempted to do so. In Iran, where Persian illustrated manuscripts were produced, they might be overseen or neglected in detail, particularly in relation to new technologies. This suggests why Western scholars have conducted the main corpus of Islamic and Persian art scholarship, while some studies done elsewhere remain old-fashioned. It also further sheds light on how women are underrepresented in the scholarship of Islamic art, particularly in Iran but not necessarily in Euro-American scholarship. Islamic and particularly, Persian art history continues to be articulated by either Western scholars or those trained in the West. The emergence of digital humanities tools and theories in Islamic arts is even less applied in the scholarship around Persian paintings. Therefore, one of my study’s critical contributions is setting the ground for more such scholarship to look at previously studied material through the new lens of digital humanities tools and theories. Although I have highlighted text-image close-looking in my case study, what I have brought to the surface is a great need to further investigate the usefulness of digital humanities tools and theories.

About the illustrated Khamseh of Nezami manuscript and visualization techniques

Around 500 years ago, a Persian Safavid art-lover king, Shah Tahmasp, commissioned an illustration of a well-known Persian poetry book, Khamseh, by poet Nezami Ganjavi. Hundreds of illustrated copies of this poetry book survive today in collections worldwide. Among them, the Or. 2265 illustrated manuscript is the focus of the current study, which now belongs to the British Library collection, and has been professionally digitized. With a different approach and the help of digital tools, and close-looking methods, I studied the relationship between this manuscript’s illustrations and their corresponding text with a particular focus on the natural world and the ideas that could have influenced painters’ choices of visual elements. For my Masters, I focused on three Khamseh compositions among five, including Makhzan al-Asrar, Khosrow o Shirin and Leyli o Majnoon. Owing in part to the accessibility of Or. 2265’s high-quality illustrations through the British Library website collection, its complex history and the large corpus of scholarship on the manuscript encouraged me to look at it through different disciplinary lenses and in an interdisciplinary way.

I employed digital tools to produce visualizations, and a close-looking methodology, to add to the traditional methods. This approach aided me in developing meaningful relationships and deepening my understanding of text and image relations. I employed data visualizations to better investigate how text and image were and were not related. By capturing more detail across text and image, data visualizations add to the traditional methods. The availability of sophisticated digital tools allows researchers and practitioners alike to explore visual art in new ways. These tools increase the speed and depth of analysis and bring to the foreground the minutia of details that would otherwise be difficult to discern.

The study concluded that along with the importance of the painter’s power over the depicted nature, the philosophy and ideological beliefs of the poet and the illustrator helped form the representations of the natural world in BL Or. 2265. Therefore, people’s relation with the elements of nature is strongly shaped not only by ideas about power and pleasure but by spirituality too.

Story: “Nushirvan and the Owls” and Folio 15v
Folio 15v Nushirvan and the Owls, BL Or. 2265.

In Makhzan al-Asrar’s Nushirvan and the Owls (f 15v) (See digital version of Folio 15v), Nezami tells of a king’s reckoning with his oppressive policies through two talking birds who are in conversation with one another. Noticing their sound, Nushirvan asks his vasir (minister) about the subject of their discussion. Worried about how the king would react, the vazir explains that these birds, one a groom and the other the groom’s future father-in-law, are talking about an upcoming wedding and discussing the bride’s dowry. The groom demands one or two ruined villages, and the bride’s father answers that if the king continues to rule as he is ruling, all his subjects would soon be in misery and that he can give the groom not one or two ruined villages but hundreds.

Through assigning verbal and decision-making abilities, in “Nushirvan and the Owls,” the two wise owls are considered equals to humans. As the story suggests, the owls’ conversation guided the king to the right path, and he became a just king afterwards. The story suggests that as readers of Nezami’s words, we are not concerned about animals themselves, rather, they are the allegorical source and vehicle of wisdom.

Story: “Majnoon with the Animals in the Desert” and Folio 166r
Folio 166r Majnoon with the Animals in the Desert, BL Or. 2265.

The story of “Majnoon with the Animals in the Desert” from Khamseh’s third composition, Leyli o Majnoon, is depicted in f.166r (See digital version of Folio 166r). In the Leyli o Majnoon composition, the young Qays and Leyli initially fall in love at school. Following his unsuccessful marriage proposal, Qays becomes mad, that is majnoon, and subsequently leaves his family and clan. A major event in the story of Leyli o Majnoon is the death of Majnoon’s father. Following his father’s death and his encounter with Leyli, Majnoon joins his empathetic wild animal companions, a group of predators and prey who peacefully coexisted in the desert. When living in the desert, wild beasts rank to become Majnoon’s companion, as well as a gazelle with whom Majnoon kneeled on the ground in f.166r.

In this folio and its corresponding text, the natural world is described as an intermediary through which human beings can seek selflessness and reach the source of beauty: God. Here, both poet and painter suggest human and animals living in harmony and avoidance of violence.

Outside mysticism, humans think they need to tame the one they love, which creates inequality, and mysticism is against that. Taming someone is taking control of or exercising power over another. Similarly, nature is tamed in a garden, and therefore it is not an appropriate setting for Nezami’s story of Majnoon, which is widely about selflessness and becoming care-free. This makes perfect sense for Nezami to place the story of f.166r (Majnoon in the wilderness) in the wilderness where nature is pure and untamed to which mysticism urges. The notion of equality, which is a reflection of mysticism and morality, is also reflected not in the story’s text, but in the mentioned painting, where both Majnoon and the gazelle are depicted equally on their knees.

Concluding thoughts

My study advances the argument that through close-looking and application of data visualization tools, four fundamental ideas– pleasure, power, spirituality, and people — proved to have influenced painters’ decisions when depicting selected stories of Khamseh.

As the scholarship around Persian illustrated manuscripts is relatively small, this research will push the boundaries and bring to the fore new insights that are not easy to observe otherwise. Although my focus has been looking closely at the natural world in one illustrated manuscript from a digital humanities perspective, there is the possibility of larger ideas about providing awareness for humankind to make sense of today’s natural world issues by looking at how nature used to be presented, regarded and treated.

Persian illustrated manuscripts are globally admired by Persian arts enthusiasts and have been extensively studied in academia. However, the language and culture of these works may be beyond the knowledge and competency of the viewer. Non-Persians may also face challenges when looking at these works of art, as texts and images are sometimes culturally coded. Despite many Persian historiographical studies, much remains to be done in a detailed analysis of the cultural context of the ‘Persian arts of the book’ as one Islamic arts branch. Through this study and similar ones, observations can generate a new visual culture of the selected historical period, promote social development and help preserve cultural material through knowledge creation.


Niẓāmī Ganjavī. (1539-1543 ). The ‘Khamsah’ of Niẓāmī (Digitized manuscript).

About the author: Yasaman Lotfizadeh is a MA candidate in IGS, Digital Arts and Humanities theme, defending her thesis in mid-May, 2022. Yasaman is a multi-disciplinary visual artist, professional graphic designer and art history enthusiast. Her research explores the intersection of art history and digital humanities in connection with Persian illustrated manuscripts. She loves academic environments, outdoor activities and socializing. As a former skating coach, hockey player, and referee, she likes to skate, bike and ski in her free time.

More Water

When people ask me why I write, I often tell them about how my stories always start from questions I encounter and that as those stories grow, they give me some semblance of an answer. Fiction being the lie that contains the truth, so to speak. Equity is definitely one of those slippery questions for me that I feel I’ll be chasing for a long time. As a brown queer woman and daughter of immigrants, I learned pretty quick that my position at the starting line was never going to be the same as my peers. Helping hands got me to where I am today but tensions still exist even within our modern solutions. It’s in that tension, that grey area of so-called-good-intentions, that my short story “More Water” exists.

More Water by Manjinder Sidhu

Rajni’s favourite part of interviewing was when the candidates were invited to share something about themselves. Right at the beginning, when they were freshly nervous, like new bunnies twitching in the springtime, backs ramrod straight. And it was a softball question, one that could be answered in any way, with no right answer. 

       But it always amazed her at how it flustered so many – as if some of them had never been asked this question before, as if some of them didn’t know themselves enough to be able to answer it with comfort. Though perhaps, shrinking the understanding your sense of self and your identity into something bite size was something extraordinary to be asking in a thirty-minute interview. But, no one ever truly objected. Who are you? That was the real deal, floating under the iceberg. Guised under the soft, easygoing nature of, tell us who you are.  

       Most people rambled about their dog, their children, their hobbies. Some people would get tears in their eyes, struggle to hold them in, and then talk about their quest to find themselves and the answers they did not have. Today’s candidates seemed to fall into the earlier category and Rajni struggled not to yawn.

Mercedes was the first one. She painted a pretty picture: gleaming black patent heels, a beige power suit with stiff shoulder pads. Her clothes created a highlighter effect against her black skin and Rajni was captivated. The way this candidate’s fingernails were polished and so evenly shaped, the way her toenails matched. Of course, it was a nude tone with a glass sheen. It was classy. The other details were smaller, the interlocking letters on her handbag. GG? CC? She couldn’t quite make it out before it was tucked under the table, but its leather looked expensive, even to her eyes. What was it about people in interviews that made them want to bring expensive items with them? At the heart of it, if one had money, then they wouldn’t be applying for her boring, administrative role, which was only a leave replacement. She rubbed her hand over her bump: only another month, little one.

       When the question was asked, Mercedes talked about her family. She talked about how her parents had immigrated to Canada and had worked hard to raise her and her siblings. How her name was something that they hoped for one day and now she could tease them about who they loved more: their daughter or their car. And, of course, how they were so proud of her graduate degree and her engagement. She flashed her fingers and light bounced around the room in response. A bright cluster the size of a small moon on her finger.
       “When is the wedding?”
       “Next year,” she replied. She grinned a row of perfect, white, square teeth and continued, “We had our heart set on a big venue for all our friends and family. But next year was the earliest we could book anything.” And then, she shifted in her seat.
       Interesting, Rajni thought. Why is she fidgeting at that comment? Rajni made a question mark on her paper. Body language never lies. You could say one thing, but your body always told the truth. One just had to look for it.
       Mercedes sailed through the rest of the questions. A solid interview and everyone was cheerful at its conclusion, which went over the allotted time by at least twenty minutes. 

       “She’s a good one.” Of course, her boss Larry would say that. He was nothing if not predictable.
       “Except for her lack of work experience,” Andrew commented. “How does one go through two decades and never work a single job?”

       Rajni tapped her pen on the paper and blew out a breath. It was true: Mercedes had stumbled on that question too. She had explained about wanting a 4.0 GPA and how that left very little time except for a few extracurricular activities. That her scholarships were what had paid for her schooling all the way through. And that even when her parents had offered to help, she had told them she would do it on her own.
     “Well, some families don’t like their children working,” Mona, the other assistant, said.
       “I don’t buy the too-busy-studying-to-work excuse. It’s called privilege, Mona. She has had it her whole life. Scholarships don’t cover everything anymore. They may cover some tuition. But food? Or clothes? Or movies? Or the type of purse she’s carrying? I think this job is just for spending money. She isn’t serious and is going to quit, just before her wedding.” Andrew fired back.

       There was a silence in the room at that remark, everyone looking down. 

(End Excerpt)

About the author: Manjinder Sidhu is a settler who lives and creates on traditional and unceded Syilx Okanagan Nation territory. As an emerging writer, she has recently completed her studies in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia. She remains hopeful that one day, she will understand the concept of balance.


Photo by Victor Serban on Unsplash

Equity on Campus

Equity on Campus by Lakshay Karnwal

Image 1: Organizing Team, Computer Science Course Union (CSCU ) Meet and Greet, November 2021

I came across the concept of equity for the first time in my ECON 101 class when the professor discussed the difference between equity and equality. I deemed equity to be a fair allocation of resources in economic terms. Later, through my time in multidisciplinary teams, I figured equity is more than just a definition. It is a concept that provides an equal platform for this fair allocation of resources. What does that mean in terms of the student community on campus? To me, equity on campus means giving equal opportunities to students to explore their academic and non-academic interests. 

Image 2: Attendees, CSCU Meet and Greet, November 2021

The quest for knowledge and education brings thousands of international students to our campus each year. Students like me are not only looking for answers but are explorers who are asking better questions. These students deserve an equal opportunity to quench their thirst for knowledge. As an international student from India, I aim to get a quality multidisciplinary education. Over three years, I have had the golden opportunity to work with the Department of Economics, Philosophy and Political Sciences, UBC Engineering Society, the Student Experience Office and many student-led course unions and clubs. Each of these departments or societies has added enormously to my education as I aspire to complete a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science.

I am a staunch believer in “new ways open new doors.” From my first day at university, I wanted to use the tremendous resources on campus to keep pursuing and learning about my interests. But one can only tap into new opportunities if there is a comfortable environment to share and express. The community at UBC Okanagan, with hundreds of student leaders and volunteers, has enabled explorers like me to acclimatise to new challenges. Throughout my time in clubs, I have met tomorrow’s torchbearers, entrepreneurs, and intellectuals.  Sharing a creative space with such people from all over the world is an augmenting experience. I have been a student of debate, Director of Competition and winner of the Annual Roger Watt’s Debate Competition during this time. The debate society, a melting pot of ideas, served as an open forum for me to challenge my views and break the epistemic bubble. In the context of global issues, intellectual freedom is a powerful tool and a privilege. As I reflect back on my first three years of university, I am grateful for having access to these opportunities. From the debate society’s mentorship panel to campus employees, the essence of the UBC community lies in its inclusive environment. This is a testament to the University’s work in the areas of equity, diversity and inclusion.

Image 3: Orientation Leaders, August 2021

In my opinion, this is the true meaning of equity on campus. UBC Okanagan is a place where students come from across the globe, from different backgrounds and cultures. Each student has the right to influence communities through opportunities on campus. Unfortunately, discrimination based on sex, religion and gender is still prevalent, but there should be no discrimination when a student explores on campus. I believe universities should be a safe haven that allows students to learn from their immediate community to form belief systems that they shall carry with them for life. Embracing unknown territory should be the aim of every international student. At UBC, students we have a global platform to hone our skills. Hence, my one piece of advice to all international students would be to try new interests in these years. You will be surprised at how much you can learn while promoting equity, diversity and inclusion at the same time. 

About the author: Lakshay Karnwal is a third-year Computer Science student from India. He enjoys taking part in leadership experiences and aims to combine them with his technical skills. Apart from his academic interests, Lakshay is a football fanatic who loves to jam on the guitar with his friends.



Equity as Hospitable Encounter

Equity as Hospitable Encounter by Brianne Christensen

In my accompanying video, I offer an introduction to the ethical concerns of hospitality studies and migration ethics. These discourses function together to theorize an ethics of encounter at various fronts, such as the nation, the community, the domicile, and the body. In Strange Encounters, Sara Ahmed explores “strange encounters” with aliens not of the extra-terrestrial kind, but strangers who have been alienated, marginalized, and dehumanized by cultural and socio-political norms (1). The politics of difference that mark these strangers as strange are not “found” on the body but, rather, are “determined through encounters” with others (Ahmed 9). In recoiling from the stranger during these encounters––even unconsciously––we refuse to recognize the stranger as human, as equal, and we thereby ignore the fact that we, ourselves, are the stranger to our stranger (Kearney 5). This disgust and abjection of the stranger is what Ahmed calls a “close encounter” (2). To address these close encounters, I suggest a turn to the literature of our contemporary moment, which is tasked with responding to the problem of precarious security and conditional welcome in a time of heightened nationalism and globalization.

In my MA thesis, I expose the dialogue between hospitality studies and migration ethics present in Ali Smith’s recently completed Seasonal Quartet. I suggest that Autumn (2016), Winter (2017), Spring (2019), and Summer (2020)––the four novels of the quartet––exhibit a hospitality beyond the thematic crossing of national borders. The quartet promotes an affective state of security that urges readers to receive the stranger in many forms. Smith’s work thus marks an ethical turn to a socially accountable fiction. Although I am interested in how literature negotiates an ethical response to the inhospitable realities of our contemporary moment, these discourses also contribute to discussions of equity, belonging, and welcome in non-literary worlds. Questions central to hospitality are relevant in considerations of how to promote inclusion in our local communities and on campus. Moreover, migration ethics––and the related concern of who can move in the world, who can move well, and who can be welcomed when they do––is particularly apt as we navigate anxieties of exposure and security, and unequal vulnerability to bodily threats in the ongoing pandemic. Equity, which signals to me a striving for hospitable encounters, encourages reflection of how to take responsibility for our role as individuals in interconnected and interdependent communities. 


Ahmed, Sara. (2013). Strange Encounters: Embodied Others in Post-Coloniality. Taylor & Francis.

Balfour, Lindsay Anne. (2018). Hospitality in a Time of Terror: Strangers at the Gate. Bucknell University Press.

Kearney, Richard. (2002). Strangers, Gods and Monsters: Interpreting Otherness. Routledge.

Smith, Ali. (2016). Autumn. Penguin Random House.

–––. (2019). Spring. Penguin Random House.

–––. (2020). Summer. Penguin Random House.

–––. (2017). Winter. Penguin Random House.

About the author: Brianne Christensen is a first year graduate student in the MA in English program. A bookworm by nature, Brianne’s childhood love of literature fuelled her interest in the way that stories connect people across time, space, and other boundaries. Her research interests include hospitality studies, narratology, diaspora, and women’s writing.




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