The struggle for food justice in the face of Aramark’s corporate monopoly on campus continues, gaining momentum. You may have seen cardboard signs around campus saying “Boycott Aramark,” “Free Meal,” and “Know Your Food.” As part of our Boycott Aramark campaign, Sustainable Trent and other organizers have provided hundreds of students with free, healthy, and diverse meals in just over one month. Around 200 students flooded into the Otonabee College Commons on February 5. Two more such meals followed on March 7 in the Gathering Space of the First Peoples House of Learning (Gzowski) and on March 12 in the Lady Eaton College Pit.
Meals have been catered by Dan Legault from the Trent Vegetable Gardens and local group Food Not Bombs, which provides free vegan and vegetarian meals in downtown Peterborough across from City Hall every Monday, no matter the weather. Now we approach the final Boycott Aramark free meal of the semester: Thursday, March 28 in the Champlain Great Hall, from 5:00 p.m. 7:00 p.m. Let’s make this one the biggest and most celebratory! The food options have not been confirmed, but we promise they will be delicious and refreshingly un-Aramark.
These meals have served multiple purposes: first off, to provide Trent students, especially first years who are locked into meal plan contracts, with an alternative to Aramark food, if only for a few meals here and there. With nutritious vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and even local grass-fed meat options, this food is a much-needed remedy for students who struggle daily to meet their needs with Aramark’s limited and often processed selection at its cafeterias.
They have also served to raise awareness about food issues on campus, and in the broader sense the TCSA’s Raw Deal petition to support its recommendations has garnered hundreds of signatures at these events. Speakers have illuminated us on Aramark as a company, not only here at Trent, but in its role as a multi-billion dollar profiteer from the exploitation of the tar sands, the prison industrial complex, and weapons manufacturing.
These unethical dealings put our struggles with Aramark on campus into perspective; students from universities and colleges all over Canada and the United States are engaged in campaigns against this corporate conglomerate and in support of more sustainable, localized food systems.
This struggle is not against the staff of Aramark, who are often mistreated or denied the right to strike. This is about a corporation which profits from the suffering of others, and the exploitation of the earth, its ecological integrity, and animals.
Trent students are not only serving and eating alternative food to Aramark. In fact, Trent University is a site of considerable student mobilization and activism for sustainable agriculture and diverse food options. The Seasoned Spoon cafe in Champlain is a student-run cooperative which provides organic, vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options at a reasonable price, and also contributes to community-building. They also recently constructed a root cellar to contribute to food security and self-sufficiency.
The Trent Vegetable Gardens practices sustainable agriculture, including rooftop gardening, and with financial support from Sustainable Trent will likely be implementing new greenhouses to expand production this fall. OPIRG’s food policy and the TCSA’s Raw Deal document have provided realistic, achievable goals for students to mobilize around. There are alternatives to Aramark and we are creating them.
Let’s remain hopeful that we can dislodge this company profiting from providing bad service and establish the new, vibrant and diverse system we need, which draws from local knowledge and agriculture. I hope to see you in the Great Hall on March 28 to celebrate food justice and the power of community!