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People’s Potato wants a healthy future

by The Concordian February 7, 2001
The People’s Potato, a student-run kitchen that offers daily vegetarian lunches to students in the basement of Reggie’s on a “pay what you can” basis, is hoping to become a staple in student life at Concordia over the next five years.
The People’s Potato is an initiative of the Concordia Food Collective (CFC), an organization that is concerned with social justice and food politics. Last Friday, CFC submitted a proposal to Bob MacIver, director of Concordia’s auxiliary services, pointing to their need for a formal contract with the
university for the space and resources People’s Potato requires to operate over the next five years.
This proposal will be looked at and negotiated with Michael Di Grappa, Vice Rector services. The agreement reached will then be forwarded to the Advisory Committee for Food Services in order for them to appropriately modify their
tender process.
Zev Tiefenbach, project co-ordinator for People’s Potato, said that they would like to consolidate their position at Concordia before a new food services contract is signed.
“We would like Concordia to acknowledge the fact that we will maintain a certain amount of space on the seventh floor, will continue to do the work that we do and will have access to such areas as freight elevators, refrigeration and parking spots.”
Formalizing their place in food services before the tender deadline would mean that the successful bidder would necessarily accommodate the presence of People’s Potato.
Tiefenbach said that they would like ecognition to cover the same five-year period as the successful tendered service. The Food Collective has been operating the kitchen, with the support of the university, on an informal, ad hoc basis since its beginnings last year. They would like to change this and have the stability of a formal five-year contract that would allow them to concentrate their efforts on their mandate – to provide nutritious food to
hungry students.
Physical hunger is not the only hunger on campus. With the increasing costs of a university education, the burgeoning rise in the cost of living and a swelling debt load, “students are very often going without meals,” Tiefenbach said. In his estimation, the kitchen is serving a strong need, focused on students by students.
The restaurant presently attracts 300 to 400 people on a daily basis. Line ups and waits of 25 minutes or more are everyday occurrences. There are never any left overs and the “pay what you can” fee policy brings in an average amount of 20 cents per person.
When asked if people take advantage, Tiefenbach’s response is that the mandate
is to get healthy, nutritious food out to the student body.
“Some people may take advantage and leave nothing, while paying $1.50 for a coffee, but that is offset by those who will leave much more than the cost of their meal,” he said.
He feels that the main point is to make food that will sustain people, in particular those who are down to one meal a day.
The Advisory Committee for Food Services, chaired by MacIver, reporting to the Office of the vice rector is preparing recommendations concerning the future of food services at Concordia. It has a broad base of representatives coming from auxiliary services, administrative staff, faculty, the student body, health services and purchasing.
Independent consultants, Bernard & Associates, have been hired to prepare a preliminary report about food services on campus. Besides looking at all facets of this service, “they have prepared a modest, on-site, preliminary survey
indicating trends,” observed MacIver, when asked about their role.
When asked how the committee saw the role of the People’s Potato at Concordia, MacIver acknowledged the raison d’etre of the People’s Potato and, as such, says they do not appear to encroach on the current food contractor’s territory.
This is supported by Tiefenbach who said that the People’s Potato “services an entirely different market. We don’t cater to quick food.”

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