Employees and members of various student-run food services on campus are in the process of joining to form the McGill Food Coalition, a new campus group that aims to “bring together all student-run food initiatives, and give them a place to share goals, work together, and maintain the culture of student-run spaces on campus,” according to Coalition member and SNAX employee Emma Meldrum.
The Coalition held its first public event on February 13: a “heartbombing” under the Leacock stairs, where representatives from SNAX, Midnight Kitchen, the Nest, and the McGill Spaces Project had snacks and information for those passing by.
The online description for this inaugural event outlined the goal of the coalition. “Currently, [student-run food and space] initiatives are vulnerable to the top-down, profit-driven decisions of our administration. We believe that unified, the groups in the coalition will have stronger negotiating power within McGill’s hierarchy and ultimately more influence on campus.”
The survival of student-run services and spaces is an issue that has reared its head frequently at McGill. Last semester, the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) negotiations took the spotlight when McGill ordered the AUS-run food kiosk SNAX to “cease and desist” the sale of sandwiches.
Kathleen Bradley, Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP Finance and Operations and former head chef at the student-run cafe the Nest, told The Daily that the SNAX controversy helped prompt the development of the Coalition.
“Around the time that McGill told SNAX that they couldn’t sell sandwiches – that was sort of the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
“Around the time that McGill told SNAX that they couldn’t sell sandwiches – that was sort of the straw that broke the camel’s back – a whole bunch of students from Frostbite, from SNAX, from the SRC [student-run cafe, the Nest], from a bunch of SSMU services kind of got together,” said Bradley.
“We met with the people from the Concordia Food Coalition, and they shared their experience with corporatized food services and how they’re working against the Concordia administration to make sure that student-run food services are preserved on campus,” she continued.
The Coalition is in the process of drafting a charter that outlines its purpose and values, one of which is to support student-run food services in their interactions with the McGill administration. According to Bradley, advocating for students throughout MOA negotiations is one way this goal can be achieved.
“We were a little bit late to the SNAX game, but hopefully in the future if EUS [the Engineering Undergraduate Society] or another faculty was negotiating its MOA and was having difficulty preserving their student space, the Coalition could come together, do demonstrations, [create] awareness, and put pressure on the McGill administration to put [measures to preserve student space] in the MOA.”
Meldrum added, “If the SNAX negotiations continue to drag as they are, there is still definitely an opportunity for the coalition to participate.”
Bradley listed “coming out to demonstrations if you see them, writing letters to the McGill administration or getting in contact with your faculty and seeing how you can support their student-run food service,” as ways that interested students can get involved with the Coalition.