DSU might take control of food in the SUB

Dalhousie’s Student Union follows in King’s footsteps in search of local, sustainable food.

Students line up in front of Tim Hortons at the Dalhousie Student Union Building.

After rejecting Dalhousie University’s offer to sign a joint food services contract, the Dal Student Union is now considering taking on-campus food options into their own hands.

At the DSU’s annual general meeting yesterday, President Chris Saulnier told the 75 students in attendance “food is something we want to do well.”

He reminded them that the Dal administration offered the DSU various “carrots” to accept their contract with Sodexo Foods Limited in December 2010. However, the student union’s council rejected the offers in order to assert control over food in the Student Union Building.

The DSU has already looked into whether or not student-run food services are viable. Yesterday Saulnier shared exciting news with students asking for local, sustainable and healthy food options – “it is possible, but it is also scary.”

He says although the DSU already operates the campus bar, the Grawood, taking on all of the food services in the SUB would be a different beast.

Students will have a say

Now that the DSU has a budget estimate of how much self-operated food services would cost, it is turning to the student body for help.

The union launched a new survey asking students to list their top five priorities for on-campus food. Options include fresh ingredients, healthy food, friendly staff, fast service and reasonable prices – to name a few.

The DSU will send a Request for Proposals to large food service providers such as Sodexo and Aramark on Feb. 21 to see how much money they would charge to meet the DSU’s demands for local, healthy and sustainable food.

The RFP will close on March 16, giving council time to evaluate their options before making a final decision on April 18.

That means that by the end of the semester, the SUB could experience a complete food overhaul – with the exception of Tim Hortons. The food services currently available in the sub include:

Saulnier said Tim Hortons would remain in the SUB even if the DSU opts for student-run food services. He called Tim’s “the anchor that allows other businesses to be profitable.”

He also acknowledged “there’d be a small revolt if we were to ever remove that Tim Hortons.”

Advice from King’s

The University of King’s College Student Union won a referendum allowing it to start its own on-campus canteen in January.

The KSU’s internal co-ordinator, John Adams, doesn’t know the details of the DSU’s plans, but says, “I don’t think we can just take our model and apply it there.”

Assuming control over food services in the SUB would be a large-scale project compared to the student canteen in the Wardroom.

When asked what advice he would give the DSU, Adams says “to keep their aspirations in check. I think you need to start small and very simple – coffee and sandwiches.”

He believes the DSU will likely have tons of great ideas initially, but says it’s important to remember “they don’t have to do it all on the first day.”