On Nov. 2, a group of Concordia students protested Food Secure Canada’s 10th national assembly. The assembly used Aramark to cater its event, which is in direct conflict to its supposed mission: to promote and develop sustainable and accessible food systems that are healthy, safe and defined by the people that live within that system, according to its website.
If you don’t know who Aramark is, you’re not alone. Even though it is the largest food provider in Canada and America and is active in 21 countries, it is extremely good at hiding its name. In fact, you may not have known that the residence cafeterias at Loyola and the downtown campus are owned by Aramark, as well as many on-campus food sites, such as the Starbucks and the Tim Hortons/Freshii area in the LB building. Outside Concordia, Aramark supplies food to many prisons in America, schools, hospitals and other cafeterias around the world.
The group’s reason for protesting the assembly was to warn attendees that Aramark was catering the event—many of whom reported not knowing that prior to the event, and were outraged to find out. According to pamphlets distributed by event protestors, Aramark is known for the following violations: serving food with maggots in it to prisoners on several occasions, 66 counts of wage, hour, labour and employment discrimination, and turning a blind eye to numerous sexual assault allegations within the company. Aramark also has a history of supporting and increasing the ubiquity of the private prison system in America with hefty political donations, undoubtedly to increase its “customer base.”
Concordia allows Aramark to rent many spaces at Concordia for surprisingly low costs compared to the estimated yield of those spaces as part of a five-year contract with the possibility of a two-year extension. This contract began in May 2015.
Luckily, there is an organization at Concordia called the Concordia Food Coalition (CFC) that is organizing a campaign to lessen Aramark’s grip on Concordia’s food economy, and to establish healthier, more sustainable and less profit-driven initiatives in its place. The campaign, which is called the Food Autonomy Campaign (FAC) attempts to amend Concordia’s contract with its food provider in order to make the food system more ethical and less profit-driven. The FAC aims to change Concordia’s food economy in ways that find the balance between what is realistic/achievable while still being effective.
According to a member of the campaign, these are the core demands: 1) to remove some spaces from the contract that Concordia holds with Aramark and replace them with student-run food providers like the Hive Café, or with other options that are more concerned with issues often neglected by the university’s current provider, like local food sourcing, fair wages, sustainability and student opportunities; 2) to increase the amount of dining dollars residence students get to spend at places outside of the cafeteria (it is currently $200) without increasing the price of the meal plan, as well as allow students to spend that money at non-Aramark owned locations on campus (which is currently not the case); 3) to allow for students to shorten their contract with residence food services and use alternative food sources from the cafeteria like open kitchens, where they could make/store their own food if they wish.
We at The Concordian believe in supporting local economies over multinational corporations when possible, and we support the Concordia Food Coalition in their Food Autonomy Campaign to create those alternatives at Concordia. If you agree that Aramark’s monopoly over Concordia’s food system should be dismantled and replaced with ethical alternatives, spread the word about Aramark and its devious acts and support the CFC and FAC whenever you see them on campus. Both groups have Facebook pages with regular updates and more information, and you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org to see how you can get involved.
Graphic by @spooky_soda