TCSA Launches Campaign for Change in Food Services at Trent

*editors note: Raw Deal recommendations at the bottom of post.

The TCSA officially released a report on food services at Trent entitled “A Raw Deal” last Wednesday at its campaign launch.  The report “provides an analysis of student opinion regarding food services at Trent university, as well as recommending a direction for improving those services.” Arthur spoke with TCSA President Brea Hutchinson about this new campaign launch.

Hutchinson criticizes the survey that Trent conducted last year for its cost and low number of participants, while emphasizing that the TCSA’s survey cost $60 and “twice as large as any other survey on food that has been done at Trent.” The second largest food survey was initiated by Trent last year; the survey aimed to include 320 participants (though the official number of students surveyed has not yet been released) and fsStrategy, the consultant group hired to do the report, was paid $60,000.

Trent was not happy about fsStrategy’s report either; Hutchinson told Arthur that a senior administrator working on the file expressed that they did not get their act together, which is why Trent has asked Aramark for a one year contract extension. “Once they got the fsStrategy document, they said this wasn’t good enough, this was not a meaningful consultation, and they wanted more time to do a good job.”

However, Hutchinson says that Trent should not have needed this time. “You had 12 years as a university to prepare for the day Aramark was no longer here…. Ultimately, what should be happening now, is that we should be closing up a RFP [Request for Proposals] process. We should just be waiting until September 2013 for [everything to come to life].”

“Let’s see if the university getting an extra 12 months gets much done with that…. I don’t know any student who can get a 12 month extension on any assignment.”

Hutchinson emphasizes that the TCSA’s survey was conducted in the most “unleading” way possible by simply asking, “What would you like to see changed about food on campus.”

“We always have to be open to that kind of a question… so having a survey that is utterly routed in that creates really intense data analysis and also creates really remarkable results… it [also] harvests the creativity of students as opposed to harvesting the creativity of the person creating the survey.”

Arthur supposed that the document did not seem very radical, but Hutchinson says that although recommendation 6 may be a simple idea, formalizing that sort of document is itself very radical.

“Having a charter of food student rights is quite radical. Right now you are governed and protected and restricted by the charter of student rights and responsibilities, which guarantees you freedom from religious discrimination. It says that someone who discriminates [against] you based on religion shall be penalized. But that doesn’t include Aramark. They say, “you have a right to be free from discrimination, but I don’t have an obligation to feed you because of your religious affiliation.” That sounds like discrimination to me.”

Referring back to the comment on the document not being very radical, Hutchinson says, “The group we’re talking to is not a radical group… We’re presenting it to the board of governors… [and] this is a very conservative approach.”

“This is directed not to convince students that it’s a problem, they know it’s a problem. It’s the board of governors, it’s the housing director, it’s the university who thinks it’s not as much of a problem as it actually is.”

When Arthur asked about what the most challenging part of the process will be, Hutchinson answered, “I think the university is trapped in a box. They want to offer cheap food, they want to offer higher quality food, and I think they are operating under the presumption that there is only one way to do that. I think one of the things we really have to say is that we can deconstruct the box.”

“This isn’t what Tessa and I think should be done with food. This is what the 661 people who participated wanted to be done with food. I would have loved to shown a much larger local and sustainable emphasis in this document, but the survey we did didn’t give us that. We’re not going to take these numbers and distort them for them to give us what we want.”

When Arthur asked which recommendation would be the most difficult to lobby, Hutchinson answered, “12 and that’s sad,” though noting that recommendation 2 and 6 would also be very difficult.

The TCSA has organized a petition for students and community members to sign in support of the Raw Deal document. “I feel very comfortable saying that we could get 2000 students saying this is the vision for food at Trent. I don’t think anyone else has proposed a vision yet. Someone could, I would love to see Food Not Bombs or OPIRG write a really radical equivalent to this, and if they can get 2000 people to support it, that’s amazing.”

“Raw Deal” recommendations

661 participants at Trent were asked “What would you like to see changed about food on campus?” Based on the results, the TCSA has made 12 recommendations for the improvement of food services at Trent. 

1: Increase the number of autonomous food service outlets on campus excluded from primary food contract.

2: Put more “flex” in “flex dollars” by allowing students to use flex dollars at a diversity of food service outlets across campus and in Peterborough.

3: Ensure that all eating areas and cafeterias are common spaces and are accessible without financial cost.

4: Make nutritional information and ingredient lists available online for all menu items.

5: The food service provider must ensure that all students, faculty, staff, and visitors are able to access fully nutritional meals regardless of their dietary constraints.

6: A Charter of Student Food Rights be developed and implemented with broad pan-campus involvement.

7: Potential food service providers must agree to work with elected student representatives and the University, in consultation with local stakeholders, to develop a local procurement policy.

8: Change the current monopoly for on-campus catering to a system of “open tender.”

9: Ensure that whenever classes are being held, students have the opportunity to eat on campus both before and after their classes.

10: Develop a centralized location to post food-related information.

11: An investigation into the impacts of food served on campus to health be conducted.

12: Current Aramark staff unionized with CUPE 3205 be given priority hiring and the rights to maintain their union status.

About Sara Ostrowska 34 Articles
Sara has been editor for Volume 47 (2012-2013) and Volume 48. She is a fourth year Philosophy and Political Studies undergrad. Her main interests are Canadian politics, and issues of law, justice and rights, feminism, and ethics. She is also a programmer on Trent Radio. You can follow her on twitter here!