Tired of the same old junky residence food? Move over, college cafeterias - The Seasoned Spoon Café is ready to provide some much-needed nutrition to starving students.
Beginning its operations in 2003 with a levy passed the previous year, The Seasoned Spoon (or just The Spoon)’s aims are various, yet fundamentally connected: at the core, they strive to promote awareness, knowledge, and change regarding food issues by fostering education, research, and a healthy community.
How this manifests is visible at the cafe, where students (or anyone else) can indulge in delicious, nutritious, and affordably-priced meals made mostly of local and organic ingredients. Many of them are grown on campus and provided by the Trent Vegetable Gardens, a sibling organization.
After ordering from their stellar menu (which caters to several dietary requirements), patrons may enjoy their consumables in what is no doubt the best eatery locale on campus: right next to, and looking over, the Otonabee River. The dining space itself is cozy and comfortable, with lots of cushioned seating (goodbye, hard plastic). In the spirit of inclusivity, one need not have bought a meal to enjoy the space - you can even eat food from elsewhere!
Aside from their fab food, The Spoon also runs regular workshops and educational events. Everything from international cooking to seed starting to movie nights to knitting and more is offered. Students can also earn credits by engaging in research-based work conducted in cooperation with the Trent Community Research Centre.
All of this and more is made possible by the levy fees they collect, which, being a not-for-profit, in one way or another go entirely back into serving the Spoon’s mandate. Worthy of note is the subsidization of the cost of the cafe’s fare - a meal of this caliber at a typical “health-conscious” restaurant would likely set you back at least twice the amount.
Of course, there are practical benefits for students as well.
“The levy helps us to teach people food skills, and to give lots of students, sometimes for the first time, a job,” said general manager Aimee Blyth.
Continuing on how the tangibles extend beyond the kitchen, Blyth explained, “Our organization offers a lot of opportunities to learn the skills that the Spoon offers, but also to connect and build community beyond the Spoon. We try to have a variety of types of events and partner with other groups on campus, in order to encourage students to connect to one another.”
Faced with the threat of a possible plummet in funding from opt-outs, The Spoon is taking a two-pronged approach to make sure that operations this coming year run as smooth as possible.
Part of their efforts will be of a promotional nature - fortunate to occupy a physical location on campus, the group hopes to conduct outreach, engaging students and increasing awareness of what they are and do, which could include offering even more programs than before.
Having to plan for total financial uncertainty on top of business as usual is taxing though, and unfortunately, the cafe will be reducing its number of paid staff and operating hours, as well as increasing prices on a number of key menu items.
Despite the potential problems, Blyth retains an aura of optimism.
"The nice thing about being a cooperative at the university is that you have a lot of significant social support. At times like this, people really step up, within our organization but more broadly as well. And if our levy decreases but sales increase, we'll probably be okay!"
The best way to find out more about The Seasoned Spoon is to head to the café, located in the Champlain College Senior Common Room (just north of the Great Hall, Room 101). Otherwise, check out their website at seasonedspoon.ca, or connect with them through Facebook or Twitter.
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