Will the DSU opt for a self-op food model?

Rebecca Hoffer serves up vegan brownies at a tuesday serving. Photo by Katrina Pyne

Since the success of the Loaded Ladle’s appeal to be re-ratified as a society in December, things have been coming together. Now, the society is as determined as ever to receive a permanent spot in the Student Union Building.

But it all depends on whether the Dalhousie Student Union will go for the self-operated, or ‘self-op,’ food model, which means it would run its own food services.

Over the past year, the student union has been working with an external consultant to put together a plan for what a self-op model in the SUB would look like. They put out a Request For Proposal (RFP) asking companies to describe what they would do with the SUB building, in line with the DSU’s vision for that space.

Chris Saulnier, president of the DSU, says the discussion period on food in the SUB is coming to a close and next year will be all about implementation.

“We are looking for an active and dynamic partnership because we think food is an integral part of the student experience at Dalhousie,” he says.

“We think there is clearly a demand for the student union to do a better job of providing that service at a higher level.”

He says the RFP will give the DSU a chance to compare their own self-op plans against plans from more professional and experienced companies such as Sodexo and Aramark.

On April 18, council will vote on whether to implement the self-op model.

Currently, the Loaded Ladle has returned to its weekly servings in the SUB, but only by the grace of Sodexo, who have an exclusive contract with the DSU for food in the SUB excluding the Grawood.

“We want to continue to facilitate [the Loaded Ladle’s] success so it’s very clear within both our self-op plan and the RFP that we put out that the Loaded Ladle is here to stay,” says Saulnier.

“They have a levy from students from last year and they provide a service that a lot of students enjoy, so it’s very clear that no matter what decision is made at the end of the year, the Loaded Ladle is part of that mix.”

The Loaded Ladle went from being $9,000 in debt earlier this year, having lost access to their student levy, to catching a second wind in December 2011. They received their insurance and passed a health inspection, then installed a sink in the SUB over the break. In January they were finally audited.

Everything sort of came all at once,” says Ciarra Glass, a third-year student and Loaded Ladle board member. “After that we started serving at the beginning of February and everything has been improving since then.”

The biggest challenge the Loaded Ladle now faces is working against the timeline of the DSU. While the Loaded Ladle hopes to have a permanent space in the SUB for next year where they can serve five days a week, Saulnier says that is not likely to happen until the summer of 2013.

“The timeline they would like to operate on is very short, whereas as a student union, we are looking at what the building is going to look like for the next 10 years.”

He says any renovations like an industrial kitchen cannot be rushed.

“It takes time to design that and secure the funding to do those renovations. We’d be looking at doing those capital expansions, and any major projects, not this summer but the one after.”

Nevertheless, the Loaded Ladle is eager to pursue these options for the coming years.

“We are really excited about working with the new executive for next year,” says Glass. “With food being such a big election issue, it will be interesting to work with them and see what their plans are.”

Rebecca Hoffer, a fifth-year student and Loaded Ladle board member, says the extra space in the SUB would be a huge help for the society. They are currently making all the food off-site at St. Andrew’s United Church and driving it to the SUB in a van.

For now, the Loaded Ladle hopes to keep serving free food from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesdays in the SUB.

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Katrina Pyne

Katrina was Editor-in-chief of the Gazette for Volume 145 and News Editor for Volume 144.

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