Photos by Kyle West
Food security is a major issue that an unfortunately large number of students at McMaster University face. McMaster offers students over twenty different on-campus locations to get food. These locations range in their selection but are united by their general lack of affordability.
The Union Market, located on the main floor of the McMaster University Students Centre, differs from the rest in that they are a relatively affordable institution. They advertise having the best prices on campus, and in fact, they do. A cup of coffee can be as low as $1.40 and a “bigger, better” bagel can cost students under a toonie. Sales are known to occur throughout the week as well that provide students many affordable mealtime options.
Union Market also offers students a range of organic, gluten-free and fair trade products that increase its available consumer demographic. Open seven days a week with extended exam hours, they truly seem to be a place that is catered around student needs.
It is no wonder then that many students flock to Union Market on a daily basis. What is disheartening, however, is that while their prices are affordable, their stock is rarely present.
For the past few weeks, Union Market has been empty halfway throughout the week. By Thursday, almost all of the stock, most notably its sandwiches and bagels, are off the shelf.
When a cashier at Union Market was asked about the lack of products, she responded by saying that there is a limited number of items that are shelved each morning and that once these items are sold, oftentimes before noon, they are not replenished.
It is true that sales have increased at Union Market since their renovation this year. This may simply be good business for Union Market but for students, especially those on a tight budget, this is a serious issue. By not catering to the demand of the student body, the utility of Union Market becomes limited.
Some would argue that it is not Union Market’s responsibility to be the only affordable and accessible spot on campus. I would agree. But until other establishments can offer affordable prices, Union Market is all students on-campus really have.
If Union Market, and by extension the McMaster Students Union, was sincere in their commitment to fulfilling students’ needs, they would place priority on keeping Union Market well-stocked at the risk of any financial loss. Considering the number of students witnessed entering Union Market and leaving emptyhanded due to a lack of stock, the fear of lost profits is likely unfounded.
The other solution would be to increase affordable options for food on campus. While the recent implementation of Tax-free Tuesdays is a step forward in the right direction, the difference is marginal especially considering the discount applies only one day of the week. Campus-wide, prices have only increased and so it seems unlikely that students will be able to find affordable food elsewhere.
Until student demands are met, it would be wrong of Union Market to advertise themselves as the best spot on campus for food. If you frequent Union Market and are able to snag a bagel or sandwich, consider yourself lucky. The majority of the student body is left disappointed and hungry.