News | Student groups tackle campus food

AUS, EUS, SSMU, Midnight Kitchen all taking action in response to Arch Café closure

Faculty undergraduate associations and student organizations across campus are taking action on what is fast becoming the most important issue in student politics this fall: food. After student interests united around the closure of the Architecture Café – culminating last week in hundreds of students marching through campus to protest the closure – student organizations have turned their attention to more long-term initiatives. The Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS), Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS), Midnight Kitchen, and SSMU have all moved – albeit in different ways – toward addressing a common goal of student involvement in campus food.

The student-run Midnight Kitchen collective held an open “strategy session” September 27 to address the issue of food on campus. Collective member Carol Fraser explained their push for a boycott.

“The Midnight Kitchen collective was actively involved in the boycott of McGill food services the last time the Architecture Café was temporarily closed in 2007. … We are concerned about student’s input and active control on campus. As the last standing student-run food service [offering full meals], we felt the need and responsibility to do something in light of recent events and the overall trend in the past ten years,” wrote Fraser in an email to The Daily.

Ideas explored at the meeting included raising awareness amongst first-year students (many of whom have pre-purchased meal plans and must spend their money at McGill cafeterias), organizing a boycott of McGill food supplier Aramark, and strengthening alternative student-run food sources on campus. Fraser added that Midnight Kitchen is considering hosting cooking skill-shares and an increased serving capacity in conjunction with a larger boycott, but stressed that the collective is “not ‘spearheading’ so to speak.”

The EUS, which includes the Architecture Students Association as of this semester, also took action this week. At EUS council September 28, President Daniel Keresteci authored a motion proposing that the EUS officially register disapproval with the administration’s decision to close the Architecture cafe, and to earmark $500 in support of the campaign to bring back the café. The motion did not mention a boycott.

“I don’t think that the EUS mandating support of a boycott would achieve the aims that we are looking at,” said Keresteci.

On September 21, the EUS submitted a full business proposal to the administration, aiming to take full control of the Architecture Café’s operations if it were to be re-opened. “All the financial burden would be on us,” said Keresteci. As of press time, the administration had yet to respond.

AUS council approved a motion September 22 mandating that they explore the idea of day-long interfaculty food market, as well as taking initial steps toward a boycott of McGill food services. The motion, brought by Anthropology Students Association councillor Brittni Martin, was unanimously adopted by the council.

AUS President David Marshall explained the motion. “The proposed boycott is, as noted in the resolution, simply a proposed one: the representatives from AUS that approach EUS, ASA, and SSMU will simply suggest that a boycott take place to supplement any food market that may come into existence. It is certainly not set in stone, but the spirit of the motion – to encourage discussion and debate around the real issue of needing broad-based student consultation, as well as to bring to light the fact that students have many ideas as to how to run a food service on campus – remains intact.”

AUS operates one of the few remaining student-run food services on campus, SNAX in the Leacock building.

“SNAX has been a profitable business for us, and very beneficial for the students, as well as the faculty, that frequent it,” said Marshall, adding that business was up this year.

SNAX general manager Erin Schilling confirmed that business has been up this year, but reiterated that there are likely reasons beyond the closure of the Architecture Café.

“It’s not the sole factor, but you can’t really deny that we’ve picked up that clientele,” she said. “Being AUS-run, we try to keep our prices low. This year, we’ve tightened up the management. Making the store more accessible has also improved our business.”

Arts Senator Tyler Lawson and Councillor Kallee Lins submitted a motion to SSMU regarding the aftermath of the closure of the Architecture Café.

“On the basis that SSMU need represent student interest – which has been so clearly and continually demonstrated on Facebook, in the campus press, as well as at the rally last Wednesday – we will move that SSMU officially endorse and promote a boycott of McGill Food and Dining Services amongst its members until the Architecture Café is reopened,” said Lawson.

The Facebook event “Boycott McGill Food Services,” running from September 23 to December 31, had over 2,800 attendees when The Daily went to press.