JIBC Law Enforcement students learn out in the community



Compassion and empathy were on the menu recently as students from the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) volunteered at the Greater Vancouver Food Bank.

More than 100 students from the Law Enforcement Studies Diploma and Bachelor of Law Enforcement Studies programs put in three-hour shifts at a food bank depot in East Vancouver.  

The volunteer stints are components of the first-year course, Law Enforcement in a Diverse Society, and the fourth-year course, Multiculturalism, Conflict and Social Justice, both taught by Law Enforcement Studies instructor Dr. Jessica Motherwell, a diversity expert.

The students spent their time opening bags of food donations, sorting them, discarding unusable items, and repackaging the donated food into bags for clients. 

“One of the signature ways to communicate our culture is through food,” said Motherwell.




Unfortunately, not everyone receives culturally-familiar foods in their packages from the food bank, she noted. The students sorted through donations of everything from canned water chestnuts and grass jelly, spiced peppers and ramen noodles, to macaroni and cheese, anchovies and Spam.

“Kimchee, olives, white rice, and mac and cheese. You just don’t know what family is going to get this,” Motherwell noted. “If I was getting this bag, how would I feel about the meal I put together? Half of the bag would be outside my culture and comfort zone.”

With many of the students aiming to work in law enforcement, the initiative is partly aimed at raising awareness that a person’s life situation is as relevant as the reason officers are called to begin with. 




“When serving clients who have come in contact with the law, I want these future officers to think, ‘First things first – when was the last time these clients had a meal? How can I connect them to some food and other resources?’” Motherwell said. “If officers go to a house for a break-and-enter call and the cupboards are bare, offer a referral or invite an aide worker to visit. These clients are vulnerable people. If they’re not eating regular meals, or if they’re a refugee and all the grocery stores around their house don’t have culturally-familiar food, they may be hungry, culturally-isolated and vulnerable.”




The volunteer stint was also an eye-opener as to how much donated food gets tossed in the garbage because they’re past their expiry dates, for example, Motherwell said. Donations of expensive supplements by well-meaning individuals also get tossed because they could make some clients sick and there is no doctor on hand to sort through it all. Candy also gets trashed or composted.

“I expect next time our students go into a food store and they see that food bank donation bin they’ll know exactly what to put in there, and that’s a lifelong gift,” she said. “They’ll be able to tell their families and their peers about what to donate. Our students have also learned from first-hand experience that if the food is expired, it goes into the garbage.”




For some of the students, this was the first time they had set foot in the food bank. Students like Jessica Haugen were a little anxious at first about the experience. But in the end, many gained a deeper appreciation about the role police officers play in serving society and the community.

“Volunteering is one way to build a strong relationship with people around you, and it felt really nice to be able to give back to the community,” said Haugen. “This was an amazing experience and I look forward to many more like this.”


To learn more about JIBC’s Law Enforcement Studies programs, visit our Justice & Public Safety Division page.


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