Time for Change: Students Challenge Traditional College Food in Canada

By Melissa Page

Students are less than satisfied with their food choices at Concordia. The university has a contract with food distributor Chartwells, but it will expire in 2015. This has presented students with the chance to convince the university to switch to food distributors who are more interested in offering healthier food choices as they also protect the environment.

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photo credit: marsmet546

The Sustainable Business
At the top of the student Food Advisory Working Group’s agenda is the sustainable business. These types of businesses operate in a manner that does not deplete the earth’s natural resources. These food providers may also engage in composting, and they make it a point of obtaining their food from locally grown producers.

In contrast, Chartwells gives students several reasons to complain. For example, they are unhappy with the choices that Chartwells retail outlets give them because they don’t have many healthy options. These unhealthy selections are also too expensive for students to easily afford. Lastly, the retail outlets have limited hours, and this makes things most difficult for residents of the campus.

An Environmentally Responsible Business
Concordia will have many examples to follow from other Canadian colleges and universities when their contract with Chartwells expires. For example, the University of British Columbia does not outsource its food services to large companies such as Chartwells, so the university can decide to purchase food from any environmentally responsible business that it chooses.

The university currently purchases 45 percent of its food from producers that are no more than 240 kilometers from the campus. The coffee sold on this campus is organically grown and carries the “fair-trade” label. Furthermore, if a particular seafood is on the list of endangered species, it is not sold anywhere on this campus.

Concordia can also follow the University of Winnipeg’s lead. This university has a mixture of retail outlets that the university operates and those that are run by outside companies. Students seeking food from several different cultures find it at the University of Winnipeg because they have a diverse menu to choose from, including food that is 44 to 66 percent locally grown.

Concordia’s Options
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photo credit: USDAgov

If Concordia chooses not to become the food provider for the campus, it can sign another contract with another outside food services provider and also be environmentally friendly. For example, it can simply include the fact that food must be purchased locally into the new contract. The university will make students and staff happier, and it will be doing its part to protect the environment.

About the author
Melissa Page writes about farm fresh produce, conscious capitalism and sustainable food habits. Inspired by A to Z Solutions, she dreams of a more sustainable world, and believes that nutritional transparency is a big step towards that goal.

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