Last week the Campus Food Strategy Group (CFSG) held an information session to educate students about sustainability initiatives being undertaken concerning the food system at the University of Manitoba.
The group is developing a Campus Food Strategy, a process and vision that seeks to change the way the campus food system operates. The CFSG is partnering with the U of M’s office of sustainability.
Ian Hall is the director of the office of sustainability at the U of M.
“Over the next year we are going to be doing research and talking to the university community, helping the university to create a plan to make the most of the potential that we have, and ideally seeing some positive social, environmental, and economic outcomes happen in the area of food,” said Hall.
Julie Rempel is a co-ordinator for the CFSG and has become increasingly involved with food issues on campus over the last few years.
“Everyone we have reached out to is interested. The challenges that we’ve run into are that this isn’t on anyone’s priority list – it’s not in anyone’s job description. Even with folks who want to champion this and take it on, you’re still trying to work your way up, and work your way down through an entire organization, depending on who you’re in contact with,” said Rempel.
Hall spoke of the all-encompassing nature of addressing the campus food system, and the opportunities this presents for students to engage in hands-on learning at the campus.
“We’re getting a lot of help from student volunteers who are doing applied sustainability research as part of their studies. We have close to 20 volunteers now who are going to be delivering parts of this research project for us, and hopefully getting some education or professional development benefits from it. We’ve got people from environmental design, economics, and some business students. It’s a really diverse group, which makes for great conversations to look at things from a variety of perspectives and really interrogate the research findings.”
The university’s largest food procurement contract with Aramark is set to expire this year, when a new request for proposal (RFP) will be tendered.
“This provides a great opportunity to try and create really rooted policy change within both the RFP and with the contract that would subsequently follow,” said Rempel.