Lucy Scholey, News Editor
A campus food awareness group can now dish out its own plates of food in the Dalhousie Student Union Building if it follows certain rules. But one DSU councillor says these conditions are not satisfactory.
“It really limits anything they can do,” says Senate Representative Glenn Blake.
On Feb. 2, Campus Action on Food (CAF) arrived at the SUB armed with plates of homemade food and prepared for confrontation with the DSU. Instead, DSU president Shannon Zimmerman presented them with a proposal – they can give out free food under certain conditions.
According to the terms and conditions, CAF can serve food if they meet food safety regulations, become a ratified society under the DSU and don’t distribute propaganda.
It’s the third rule that concerns Blake. He says this rule will censor the message CAF wants to make about food and exclusivity contracts.
“Students have a problem with something going on campus that directly affects the DSU and people they engage in business transactions with,” he says in an e-mail. “They want to not only draw attention to the issue by making a statement, but also by providing other students with something that stays after the free food is gone.”
But Zimmerman says the rules are there to keep CAF accountable for the safety of its food.
“If they’re willing to make sure that they’re following the rules that are set out and … putting somebody there that can be accountable for it, then Sodexho is willing to help them make sure that the health and concerns are met,” she says.
It’s not the first time students have spoken up about food contracts. Last semester, Students Mobilize for Action on Campus (SMAC) started a petition, calling on the DSU to make its exclusivity contracts public. They collected nearly 1,500 signatures from Dal students.
Sodexho and Aramark are contracted with the SUB and Dal, respectively. The details in these contracts are largely unknown – such as their start and end dates – but it’s clear that students can’t prepare and serve food in the SUB without going through Sodexho.
“It’s pretty much governed our choice in what we can eat,” says CAF member Gwendolyn Muir, about the contracts.
Aside from the limited vegan and vegetarian options on campus, Blake says students have a right to see these food contracts.
“If you’re a member of the union, you should be able to see what you’re entering into.”
Kelly O’Neil, a first-year social work student, was one of the first in line for food at the protest. She says she attended because she agrees with CAF’s message.
“We should have the right to access decent food that’s affordable to students at this university and the way that the structures exist now, that’s not possible for students,” she says.
Zimmerman says Sodexho is open to working with students when it comes to food issues. For example, when societies hold bake sales in the SUB, they have to go through Sodexho, first.
“There’s always been the opportunity for (CAF) to work with us on this and to try and work with Sodexho on this,” she says, adding that she will continue working with CAF on the issue.
If an agreement is reached, the terms and conditions would last until April 30.