Nourishing community, feeding change

Social Sciences

- Anne MacLaurin

Schellenberg. Credit: Submitted.

By bringing the first Meal Exchange chapter to UVic, Jessica Schellenberg truly gave back to her student community during her four years studying environmental and social justice. She graduates this month with a double major in environmental studies and political science, and a minor in education.

“Food is a justice issue and it is an environmental issue that affects every living being on earth,” states Schellenberg.

Meal Exchange Canada is a national non-profit that supports universities across the country to be leaders in serving good food for everyone. Schellenberg initiated the chapter at UVic after finding inspiration from her fellow students who were politically engaged in changing the campus and community for the better.

It was also through her environmental studies classes that food security and food justice quickly became the lens Schellenberg used to pursue her academics and her volunteer work.

“As I started to use food as a lens, I realized that I could utilize both my privilege as a white heterosexual cisgender women, as well as my energy as a youth to address these issues while creating change,” Schellenberg explains.

The Good Food Challenge

For four years Schellenberg worked tirelessly to bring awareness to the university’s food systems through Meal Exchange’s Good Food Challenge. She completed two audits of UVic Food Services and recently started work with UVSS, who have signed a 20 per cent Good Food by 2025 commitment.

Universities have large purchasing power when it comes to what kind of food is bought, Schellenberg says, and her goal is to shift campus food systems to make them more just and sustainable.

Through Meal Exchange, Schellenberg hosted cooking workshops, a cultural food fair and the popular Trick or Eat food bank drive.

The Trick or Eat food drive was my favourite memory at UVic. We had fun, gave back to our community and we were able to connect deeper with food security solutions on campus.
—Jessica Schellenberg, graduating with a double major in environmental studies and political science, and a minor in education

She also worked each summer for TopSoil, an innovative urban farm—first as a volunteer then as their on-site market coordinator. TopSoil founder and CEO Chris Hildreth, who is also a UVic social sciences alumnus—was extremely happy to have Jess on their team for four years.

For Schellenberg, the most important thing in her life are her relationships with her friends, her Baba (Russian grandmother) and the natural world. She also loves music, playing her guitar and hiking whenever possible.

Schellenberg started a full-time position with Meal Exchange Canada in October where she hopes to have a greater impact on addressing food insecurity amongst youth. She would like to thank Zoe Martin, who has taken over the work with UVic Meal Exchange, and Alex Ages, the previous coordinator of the UVSS foodbank.

Schellenberg also expresses special thanks to UVic professors Deborah Curran, James Lawson, Ted Riecken and Laura Lauzon, who supported her in several directed studies classes related to Meal Exchange and food systems. By receiving course credit for some volunteering work, Schellenberg says she was able to have a greater impact on campus.


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Keywords: convocation, graduation, environment, environmental studies, student life, convocation, graduation, biology, environmental studies, student life, wildlife

Publication: The Ring

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