It’s been more than a month now since the release of the Trent Central Student Association’s (TCSA) “Raw Deal” document on the state of Trent’s campus food service and with the the university’s 2013 food service contract deadline approaching, student groups have steadily weighing in on the discussion.
The “Raw Deal” report was released by the association on September 18 and is the result of almost a year’s worth of polling and analysis. The document is comprised of twelve recommendations that aim to tackle a wide range of issues that currently plague Trent’s campus food service.
In order to devise these recommendations, the TCSA polled more than 650 students over the course of five days, asking them the question “what would you like to see changed about food on campus?” The results were analyzed and separated into broad categories such as “More Variety” and “Healthier Food” and then broken down in sub-categories that focused on specific aspects of the food service like the cost and quality of different food types. The recommendations were then devised from these results and then drafted to address the various concerns.
In terms of reception to the report the TCSA’s Vice-President of Student Issues, Tessa Nasca, says that the response from the Trent community and in particular from the university’s student groups has been positive. “On the day of the launch we got over 300 [student] signatures in support,” she noted. “In addition we [have recieved] a positive response from various community and student groups including a public statement of support by the Seasoned Spoon.”
The Seasoned Spoon is a student cooperative organization that operates a vegetarian café in Champlain College. Responding through an email interview, Seasoned Spoon director Evan Brockest lauded the “Raw Deal” as a “useful roadmap for increasing the transparency, autonomy and level of satisfaction within the Trent foodservice environment.”
“The report’s findings and recommendations are effective at communicating many
of the issues [with Trent’s current foodservice situation],” he said. “This includes the widespread concern within the Trent community over the lack of value, sense of poor quality, and general frustration over the lack of flexibility built into the current meal plan options.”
Other student groups have also been quick to stand behind the campaign including student environmental group, Sustainable Trent. According to organizer Julien Tennent-Riddel, Sustainable Trent is “definitely in support” of the document. “We have all had a chance to take a look at it,” he said, “and we feel that its recommendations are very important in attempting to break the monopoly Aramark Corp. has over food on campus.”
Because the “Raw Deal” report’s recommendations are devised from student opinion, they take aim at many of the common complaints voiced by students on a day-today basis. Although the Trent community may view some recommendations as idealistic, TCSA President Brea Hutchinson explains that the union actually views them as quite conservative.
She states that with the “Raw Deal” the union wanted to bring about real and tangible change in Trent’s food service and therefore didn’t want to release an unrealistic document.
While some recommendations target longstanding complaints, such as the recommendation to “make nutritional information and ingredients list available online for all menu items”, others lay out a blueprint for the union’s longer-term foodservice strategy.
Recommendation number six calls for the development and implementation of a Charter of Student Food Rights, a process which Tessa Nasca says will begin shortly. Recommendation number one, which argues for an “increase [to] the number of independent food service outlets on campus” also seems to fit in with the TCSA’s broader food strategy as it is widely known that the operation of a food service outlet has been on the association’s radar for some time.
The release of the “Raw Deal” document has come while the university continues to plan for a new food service contract as its current one, with Aramark Canada, expires in 2013. Tessa Nasca says that the Trent community’s response to the “Raw Deal” report is a signal to university administrators that Trent needs to make substantial changes with its new contract.
“The message [from students] is clear: it’s time for changes in Trent’s food service. I think the administration knows that and they agree with that.”
Nasca also notes that improving the quality and value of campus food service could represent a large step forward in combating Trent’s well-known struggles with student retention.
In terms of next steps with its “Raw Deal” campaign the TCSA has begun organizing a student Food Committee comprised of various stakeholders, including representatives from the Seasoned Spoon, College Cabinets, and OPIRG Peterborough among others. Only three student positions have been given seats on the university’s Food Service Planning Committee so Ms. Nasca is hoping that this student Food Committee will “guide the [student] voice” at the Planning Committee meetings.
The TCSA’s “Raw Deal” document is available online here