Student unions toss first pineapple in food fight
FEB 28, 2013 | BY YUKON DAMOV
“Have you heard about the $8 pineapple?” asked Grace Guo, vice-president external for the University of Toronto Mississagua Students’ Union. At Colman Commons, the central cafeteria for UTM students living in residence, such an outrageous price exists, depending on the size of the pineapple, as the price is per 100 grams.
A pineapple is a fine idea—healthy and tasty. It gets one side of the equation right, but Guo and the UTMSU, as well as Munib Sajjad, vice-president university affairs for the University of Toronto Students’ Union, are planning to lobby the administration to express students’ dissatisfaction with the quality, variety, and price of food on the two campuses.
The principal source of conflict is the monopoly that Chartwells, a company that has contracts with dozens of post-secondary institutions across North America, holds on food services.
“There should be no profit made from students,” Sajjad said.
UTMSU is currently in the process of mediation with UTM, trying to access the contents of Charwells’ contract with the school. Chartwells cites issues of competition for withholding the information.
UTMSU held a town hall Wednesday night to receive student input on the matter; UTSU is holding a town hall Thursday. Only twenty students attended Wednesday’s town hall and, according to the Facebook event as of press time, only twenty students of nearly 600 invited are slated to attend Thursday’s town hall. Maybe most students don’t care about outrageously expensive pineapples, or maybe they don’t know about the campaign.
The low turnout failed to quell Guo’s enthusiasm. “I’m very optimistic that we can work with the administration towards a solution,” she said after the town hall, which featured representatives from Chartwells and the administration.
UTSU and UTMSU are calling their initiative a Task Force, emphasizing that their lobbying efforts need student input. Hence the Town Halls and the survey forms available at the UTSU office. Oddly, the survey is only available in paper format at the office as the website survey is currently down. Posters around campus are also scarce.
What Sajjad and Guo are working on is basic stuff — everybody knows food sucks on campus. But if their initiative is to be effective, it will require more student involvement than currently appears to be.
- Subtitle: UTSU, UTMSU seek to increase affordability and options for campus food