“It’s so expensive.” “I can’t eat it.” “It’s always the same.” Popular grumblings that ripple through our student body regarding food options on campus. The lack of options would not be so painful were it not for the mandatory meal plans imposed upon on every first year and those living in the Peaks and Villages. Regarding student relations to food services, we tend to create an atmosphere more sullen than our socked in winter months. With our given set of circumstances, can we create something different?
Why are we at Quest? The consensus seems to be that ‘Quest offers something I can’t get through any other institution’. We want to be an integral part of the direction of our education. We want to be an integral part of the direction of our food systems. That requires more than expressing disdain with peers.
Campus Living Manager Darren Newton, exuding his characteristic enthusiasm, expressed that he has been the one pushing for changes to Quest’s on-campus food policies. Newton works closely with the current contractor, Black Katz, and optimized the annual food survey sent to the student body so the feedback could elicit change on our behalf.
When asked about the results of that survey and the changes being implemented based on those results, Newton first notes that the changes Black Katz can make are limited by their contract with Quest. That is now up for review; there is new contract to sign and implement as of May 1, 2017. The bidding for this contract will be open to other food service companies as well. Newton has enrolled Food Systems Consulting, Inc. to identify what Quest students are looking for so that they are able to adjust the contract and to meet our needs; dietary restrictions, whether allergen or preference; flexible hours; communication between contractor and student body. They held five meetings with students in September to hear our feedback.
One of the major points of contention in those meetings was students’ lack of control over what and when we eat. Black Katz has focused specifically on improving options while feeding a fixed audience for the 5 years they have been on contract with Quest.
Regardless of who the food provider is, the question of student influence over food options will remain a concern within our community. Will we have a voice future contract negotiations? Another issue is our lack of awareness of what we are receiving for our money. Who among us knows that Black Katz provides antibiotic-free chicken, preservative-free cold cuts from a local, family-owned company, buns made at Sunflower Bakery in Squamish, and specials often made from scratch?
It may not take a change of company to address students’ concerns, but simply a change in contract with Black Katz. Black Katz is passionate about food and is literally only here to serve us. Don’t be hating because you feel like you missed your opportunity to voice your opinion on the survey last year. Black Katz wants to receive positive critical feedback. They want to know what we like and what we don’t. We can talk directly to the management of Black Katz or speak to our Campus Life Manager Darren Newton about concerns and discontents.
I challenge us to sincerely ask ourselves: What do we want this community to stand for? Do we prefer local? Sustainable? Natural? Do we prefer corporate? Do we prefer cheap? Black Katz is listening. It is up to us to make sure we are heard.