Commentary | Hyde Park: Clarifying the kitchen’s plans

Unbeknownst to anyone involved with the Midnight Kitchen, the proposal for its expansion recently became a focal point in Marshall Peters’ campaign for SSMU presidency. In his March 9 interview with The Daily, Peters said that he wished to see Midnight Kitchen expand to serve 1,000 students per day, and to begin serving free-range meat and dishes containing eggs and dairy. In his vision, this food would still be cheap, but not necessarily donation-based – and therefore less accessible.

We’re open to the idea of expansion, and are glad for the attention and interest. In fact, the Midnight Kitchen has been steadily growing since it was founded in 2002, increasing serving times from two to five days per week, providing more food to more people, expanding our collective and volunteer base, gaining a student levy, and hiring our first paid positions. We hope to continue expanding our services and outreach. However, we’re uncomfortable with the way in which Midnight Kitchen has been used as a means to some political end. We were never consulted about our role in this campaign, nor was our purpose accurately represented.

The Midnight Kitchen was founded as one political response to the increasing monopoly that the Chartwells corporation was gaining over food services on the McGill campus. By serving affordable, healthy meals to as many people as possible and using food surplus that would otherwise go to waste, we aim to provide a socially and environmentally viable alternative that counters this privatization. We also try to foster the educational and community-building potential of such a service.

While we are a SSMU service and operate out of the Shatner building, the day-to-day logistics and larger vision of the Midnight Kitchen are directed by our collective, rather than handed to us top-down. We are a volunteer-based initiative that is adamantly not a business. Our collective, which is made up of volunteers and paid positions, runs by consensus and organizes around principles of anti-oppression. That those people working at the Midnight Kitchen make the decisions of our organization is fundamental to our vision; it makes us an alternative to market-based systems of food production and distribution. This self-direction is extended to our space itself: we have had autonomy over and full access to our kitchen since the Fall General Assembly in 2006.

There are already a number of other alternative independent and/or student-run food sources across campus:  the Architecture Café, Frostbite in McConnell, Snax in Leacock, and the Rabbit Hole Café at the Yellow Door, among others. We support any student initiatives to create similar organizations in opposition to the corporatization of food on campus. We would be enthusiastic to lend our experience and skills if someone on SSMU made food politics one of their main priorities, but to make sweeping proposals in the name of the Midnight Kitchen is to make false promises.

Marie Thomas and Theresa Knoppers are members of the Midnight Kitchen. Interested in helping out with the collective? Drop by their kitchen or a serving in Shatner room 304 or write them at midnightkitchencollective@gmail.com.


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