Sarah Jama’s entire platform is arguably centered on accessibility, whether through MSU services, food and living accommodations or improved financial accessibility.
However, there are a couple of key concerns that are embedded in Jama’s platforms on improving food and healthy living.
With Jama’s Emergency Meal Plan, the basic premise of her idea is to create an emergency meal card for students that will be provided on a first-come, first-serve needs basis.
But immediately, the explanation provided for this platform is questionable, as Jama’s website states:
“The cost of food is expected to rise in Hamilton up to three hundred percent within the next two years (source).”
With no actual source provided, it’s troubling to see this cited as a real statistic when it falls apart under a simple application of logic. If a basic meal at Centro costs $8, conservatively, it seems ludicrous to imagine it costing anywhere near $32 in two years.
Now, it’s worth noting that regardless of whether or not the statistic is true, it does not invalidate the desire for an emergency meal plan fund. Jama pointed to the massive demand for the MSU Emergency Bursary as tangible evidence of students’ needs on campus.
But a number of logistical issues remain unanswered and the flimsy statistic does nothing to help the seemingly shallow research.
For example, it’s unclear how exactly such a plan would be implemented; in particular, what an individual needs to reveal about their financial situation in order to be eligible.
It seems both necessary and yet onerous to ask an individual to divulge their financial standing to be eligible, but it’s an inevitable problem that as of yet has no tangible solution.
For now, Jama explained that she plans to work with both Hospitality Services and the Faculty of Social Work to develop a solution.
There are also a number of potential issues with a first-come, first-serve distribution. An individual who is in need of funding in April has a disadvantage to receive funding compared to an individual in need in November, even if the financial need is equal.
In addition, both Gina Robinson (Assistant Dean at Student Affairs and Director of the Student Success Centre) and VP (Finance) Daniel D’Angela confirmed that for students in need, the Financial Aid Office can provide assistance in a number of ways including a week-long loaded meal card. However, Jama explained that she wants to expand that aid for students who might need assistance for longer than a week, and D’Angela indicated that these options for students could certainly be advertised more effectively.
It’s a nuanced issue, but with a month-long meal card being worth somewhere around $400-500, Jama must present a plan with a better balance between addressing a need and implementing a responsible system.
Jama’s platform on a $5 meal plan also seems like a challenging issue to push through, although it’s worth noting that a similar plan is currently being implemented at Ryerson University. But when the plan involves hiring students to cook meals for students, as both a cheap and healthy option, it seems like the combination of one too many ideas to be feasible.
Ultimately, providing affordable food options to students is an admirable goal to have in mind, and the same goes for a plan to provide financial aid for students in need.
But Jama’s platform does not adequately address how these programs can actually be implemented, and the research behind them feel somewhat flimsy upon close examination.