Dal student wants say in campus food

Report recommends ways university could have a more sustainable food service

Rebecca Hoffer hopes her report will change the way Dal does food. (Photo: Samantha Durnford)

If Dalhousie University follows the recommendations devised by Rebecca Hoffer, students will have a say in what food is bought and sold on campus.

Hoffer is the lead author who developed "Food Services and the Dalhousie Community: Sustainability, situation analysis and policy recommendations." It was created in light of Dalhousie's current food contract with primary provider, Aramark, coming to an end after this semester.

In the report, Hoffer proposes a forum where students can discuss food services.

"We've had a top down approach, but this will make it more of a bottom up approach where students will have a way to voice their concerns and make suggestions about the way the food services are being run," she said.

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Dal's main food contract with Aramark is up this semester. (Photo: Samantha Durnford)

Hoffer and her team looked at university campuses all over Canada and compared them to Dalhousie's current situation. This helped her come up with a list of changes they'd like to see:

• Develop a food advisory committee with students, employees, and the food service providers.

• Implement a sustainable food purchasing policy.

• Establish a partnership with a company that certifies local producers.

• Initiate a Dalhousie food systems project. This means that the university will work to research and implement innovative food-related initiatives.

• Fabricate a website that has information about food issues and policies at Dalhousie.

• Develop ethical policies on food buying and sourcing.

• Create a communal kitchen space for anyone to use.

Hoffer, a fourth-year Dalhousie student, was hired for a co-op by Dalhousie's College of Sustainability. She says that the funding she received to write the report however, was not the motivation for doing it.

"It was the timeliness. We were interested in influencing the upcoming food contract negotiations and this was a one-in-ten-year opportunity," she said. "The political climate was right at school too, since food was high on the agenda."

She thinks that the report will give the DSU a chance to get into action in regards to sustainable student run food services.

"They've been talking the talk for a while, it's time for them to prove themselves."

Dal can lead the way

Both Hoffer and professor Deborah Buszard, associate director of the College of Sustainability, believe that not only are these small recommendations a way to turn Dalhousie into a food service leader.

"As a large university, what we buy and our standards can have an impact," said Buszard. "If we change the way our university goes about contracting for food, other universities might too."

She is hopeful that Dalhousie will set a precedent for sustainable food services.

"If all universities followed Dal, think of the change we could see in agriculture and the change we could make in society," said Buszard.

As Dal begins to draft new food contracts, Hoffer hopes the university will keep her recommendations in mind.

"It's helpful because there's a lot of little and easy steps the university can take," she said. "Through the university we have the opportunity to make a big change."

Chris Saulnier, Dalhousie Student's Union (DSU) president, was a main supporter of having student-run food services on campus once the Aramark contract is up.

He thinks that the recommendations Hoffer wrote in her report were important in moving forward with Dalhousie food services.

"It's a wonderful document and suggestions that we're going to really take to heart," said Saulnier. "It's a good aid and I'm thankful someone took the time to write it."

Saulnier says that a lot of the recommendations in the report were already things the DSU were looking at when deciding how they want to run food services.

The new food contract is to be drafted and released later this semester. No date has been set.

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