By: Rebeca Abelson
At the beginning of each week, I find myself in a familiar corner. Making promises to pack daily lunches to avoid cafeteria lines and innutritious meals is an increasingly familiar undertaking. And time and time again, I find myself with $8 or $9 receipts pouring out of my coat pockets. The fact of the matter is that purchasing food on campus is often an unavoidable phenomenon. For students with busy schedules, it can be challenging to commute home with such short durations between classes.
If you’ve even so much as brushed over the presidential platforms, you have probably noticed one widely held viewpoint. Cheaper and healthier food options. While food availability on campus is widespread, the selections tend to be limited.
The omnipresence of expensive campus meals has captured the attention of several presidential hopefuls with many promising to bridge the gap between cost-effectiveness and healthy food options.
Patricia Kousoulas is one of these candidates. She hopes to implement a breakfast program by extending on familiar MSU food services. While the specific details are unknown, students would be able to enjoy better food options for their first meal of the day. According to Kousoulas, healthier meal options would yield both mental and physical benefits.
In a similar vein, Leanne Winkels discusses food security alongside campus clubs. She argues that the monopoly of Paradise Catering limits the availability of traditional foods to religious and cultural groups. Overcoming this inhibitory barrier would allow internal organizations to better serve the needs of McMaster students.
Like his fellow candidates, Chukky Ibe acknowledges the importance of healthy meal options. Ibe’s platform is twofold and tends to the environmental concerns associated with campus food services. He emphasizes the continued use of reusable dishes throughout campus eating facilities and extending beyond the green box containers used at Centro. Furthermore, he proposes the Good Food delivery program, which will work alongside McMaster Farmstand and Mac Bread Bin to hand-deliver boxes of locally-sourced food to student neighbourhoods. Ideally, the food delivery program would alleviate the time and stress associated with grocery store visits.
Shaarujaa Nadarajah furthers the discussion of food security on campus. According to her platform, the cost of healthy meal options is a barrier enacted by high university costs. Students are forced to compromise their nutritional requirements as a result of other, more imminent school needs. To challenge this discrepancy, Nadarajah proposes the implementation of new McMaster food services that work alongside Mac Farmstand and other existing business units.
In addition, she contends with Winkel’s conception of Paradise Catering as an inaccessible and unaffordable food service. Matt Vukovic agrees with his competitors surrounding the hegemonic force that is Paradise Catering. He furthers his argument by promising to implement food substitutes such as Soylent, a nutrient rich alternative. Despite the unlikely adoption, food alternatives would dismantle the current food monopoly and create less traffic in populated dining halls throughout campus.
While each candidate proposes unique solutions, most discuss their initiatives alongside food security. The prevalence of this buzzword within presidential platforms raises several questions. What is the hysteria surrounding food practices? How feasible are the solutions proposed by the 2017 MSU presidential candidates?
As raised by Nadarajah, many students are plagued by the decision of choosing between healthy meals and other expensive school-related fees.
It appears that the solution to food insecurity at McMaster University will not come easily. As most students are well aware of, consuming healthy, nutritious dishes can be expensive than eating at quick, fast food restaurants.
Evidently, the problem of food security on campus is threefold.
Firstly, McMaster University would be tasked with replacing greasy spoon options with fresh, locally sourced meals. Ideally, these services would be offered at a reduced cost. Furthermore, practices of food security call for environmental and sustainable considerations.
From a brief overview, it becomes apparent that these objectives act in contention with one another. The feasibility of striking a balance between healthy food options and cost-effectiveness is continuously challenged. Upon implementation, practices of food security on campus would demand mass subsidies to offset the costs students are paying for their meals.
Aside from Ibe’s expansion of the Good Food delivery program and the commonly held proposition of dismantling the Paradise Catering contract, the solutions put forth by presidential candidates are quite vague and do not tend to the specificities of food security. Rather, they propose idealistic ends without providing the sufficient means to do so.
While their efforts are respectable, campus food security must be tackled by multiple levels of government. Perhaps MSU presidential candidates should work alongside the McMaster Board of Governors to renegotiate food contracts with a multitude of companies offering more feasible and sustainable food options. Despite the aforementioned challenges, campuses should devise new methods of providing healthy meal options without compromising the financial well-being of their students.