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Editorial: Boycott Chartwells next Thursday

We’re just three short months into 2008, but things are looking a lot like 2004. That year, a group of students called the Coalition for Action on Food Services (CAFS) formed to fight the McGill administration’s corporate approach to food provision. One of CAFS’s most important actions was a three-day boycott of McGill’s favourite food-service company, Chartwells.

With little change in the administration’s attitude over the last four years, a new group – the Food Services Committee of the GrassRoots Association for Student Power and Midnight Kitchen – formed this winter to continue the battle. They’ve been organizing workshops on cooperative kitchens, critiques of the “sustainable business” model, and the success of student-run food options at other universities. Most importantly, the group is organizing a boycott of all corporate food vendors next Thursday and Friday, and will make sustainable, student-run alternatives available across campus.

In a year that has seen labour disputes at the Chartwells-operated Bookstore Café and a McGill takeover of the formerly student-run Architecture Café, next week’s boycott is hugely important. Chartwells is one of North America’s biggest campus food providers, and from Louisiana State to Carleton to McGill, the concerns are the same: high prices, poor quality, employee mistreatment, opposition to employee unionization, and even the occasional food-safety scandal.

Earlier this month, Principal Heather Munroe-Blum said something bizarre to The Daily. “I see no evidence that student-run initiatives work better on the food, quality, variety, and pricing size,” she told us. We wonder if our Principal has ever eaten on this campus. If she had, she’d know that in terms of quality, variety, and price, the few student-run options still around beat out Chartwells every time.

So next Thursday and Friday, skip out on your twice-reheated Pizza Pizza, bring a tupperware to school, and give Midnight Kitchen a try.