Food options have returned to the Dalhousie University Student Union Building (SUB) after a year of COVID-19 closures.
On Sept. 13, the Dalhousie Student Union announced at their first council meeting of 2021 that the SUB would be returning to regular hours, this has come with the reopening of the food court and most food businesses except Bento Box and Booster Juice.
But the chain restaurants aren’t the only food options in the SUB. For students looking for affordable or even free food, the DSU levies a few food options on campus. Aparna Mohan, the DSU’s interim vice president (academic and external), said when it comes to combatting the financial issues of students, food access is something the DSU prioritizes.
“Food security is something that’s been a really big part of the DSU portfolio. And, in particular, this year, the loaded label and the food bank,” said Mohan.
Patsy Ginou, the food box coordinator for the DSU Farmers Market said “students have more than enough to worry about without having to wonder where their next meal is coming from and if they can afford it. Students pay so much into their institution, and we deserve to have some affordable options in return.”
Here are some of those affordable options.
The Loaded Ladle
The Loaded Ladle, supplies sustainable, accessible, locally-sourced free food to students from Tuesday to Friday, 12:30 p.m.-2:00 p.m. on the main level of the Student Union Building. The food is plant based and typically includes gluten free options. Allie Lum, employee at the Loaded Ladle, said they “strive to create well-rounded warm meals that include the major food groups, including dessert.”
The pandemic forced the Loaded Ladle to reduce capacity last year. Loaded Ladle employee Öykü Su said, “Our number of servings reduced by more than half. However, with the reopening this year so far, our servings have surpassed our pre-pandemic average.”
Another Ladle employee Lauren Rodrigues said during lockdowns “time was well spent” organizing and developing new projects off-campus.
Throughout this time, their focus remained on minimizing food insecurity in the student population. They met their goals by delivering about 500 food boxes filled with vegetables, fruit, eggs and tofu to students from April to August of 2020. “Then, from September to December we supported 50 students with food gift cards from the Halifax Brewery Farmers’ Market,” said Rodrigues.
The Ladle has also launched a new project, Ladle TV. Ladle TV is a program that provides students with a box of ingredients that they can use to follow along with Ladle TV’s Instagram recipes. According to Rodrigues, 300 students have been served through Ladle TV.
“Students are under immense pressure to thrive academically, socially and recreationally at Dalhousie. These goals are unattainable when we cannot nourish our bodies due to a lack of affordable food on campus. The Loaded Ladle provides a consistent source of food on campus, so that students do not have to worry about affording their next meal between classes,” said Lum.
DSU Farmers Market
Another reliable source of food on campus is the DSU Farmers’ Market. Through their website, students can order food boxes, bread, coffee and more, at a nearly wholesale value, to be picked up on the main floor of the SUB on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
“The pandemic has largely affected student work and student income, especially with a lot of students having to move around and quarantine and everything. All of this I’m sure has affected food security,” said Ginou.
According to Ginou, their produce is sourced directly from local farmers, such as Abundant Acres, Noggins Farm and TapRoot Farms.
They also occasionally work with the Dal Urban Garden Society, a group who garden and grow fresh produce on campus. The Dalhousie Urban Garden Society also offers grocery grants to students struggling with food insecurity.
DSU Food Bank
Located in the basement of the SUB, the DSU Food Bank provides free food and hygiene products for students and community members, with halal and vegan options available. Due to COVID-19 the food bank now operates by appointment only, which can be booked through the registration form on their website, dsu.ca/foodbank.
“The food bank was one of the only things that was offered throughout the pandemic,” said Mohan.
The various programs combatting food security at Dal all work together and with the DSU to remain focused on their mission, Mohan said.
Ginou said, “I know that all of these groups are doing everything they can to make accessible and affordable and local food options more prevalent to students on campus, in comparison to a lot of the fast-food places and overpriced meal halls.”
- With files from Adam Inniss, News Editor