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Food Justice Now hopes to expand free meal program on campus

By Cristina Paolozzi, November 25 2021—

On Nov. 25, Food Justice Now — a subcommittee of the club Students for Direct Action — is serving a hot meal of lentil soup and rice to University of Calgary students. 

This project, in partnership with Home Foods Community Kitchen and Zero Food Waste, sees student and community groups addressing the increasing issue of food insecurity among students. 

Isabelle Reynolds, Outreach Coordinator for Food Justice Now, spoke with the Gauntlet about what students can expect during this event, and the main concerns Food Justice Now are trying to confront. 

Reynolds mentioned that they joined Students for Direct Action in their first year of law school at the U of C. In one of the first meetings Reynolds attended, they spoke about how concerning food security was for many students on campus, and the different ways the campus community could respond. 

“At our first meeting, they were talking about how big of a deal food insecurity is on our campus,” said Reynolds. “And how hard it is to find diverse food options on campus. So they started talking about a food co-op.” 

Reynolds mentioned that Food Justice Now tried engaging with the campus community about this initiative over the pandemic last year, but unfortunately didn’t get much uptake. 

“So this year, we need to get back to basics — what do we want to do right now?” they said. “We need to be doing mutual aid on the ground because probably the reason people aren’t engaging is because they don’t have enough time, they don’t have the knowledge about what the problems are about food on campus.” 

Reynolds said that the meal being served is vegan and gluten free to accommodate for all dietary needs. They also hope that Food Justice Now will be able to provide these meals once a month — they’ve already received funding from the federal government and want to continue this momentum for the rest of the school year. 

Reynolds also mentioned that a huge supporter of this event has been Magdalena Goss, associate director of hotel and conference services, who provided the kitchen space for the meal prep. 

Reynolds referenced other Canadian post-secondary institutions who have strong food history, creating accessible options for students. When comparing institutions like Dalhousie University or Concordia University and their relationship with student-led food initiatives, Reynolds believes the University of Calgary is lacking that unity.   

“We know that on the University of Calgary campus, the students aren’t well-organized, and in my opinion, that’s deliberate on the part of the university,” said Reynolds. “They don’t want us to be organized, they want us to be able to sign these contracts with huge corporations like Aramark and for us not to have any say.” 

Despite how bleak things look, Reynolds said that they are hopeful to start to bring attention to this issue and to bring students together. 

“Our goal is long-term, sustainable, student-run autonomous food options,” they said. “I have this feeling like I know that it’s possible and I feel like as Food Justice Now and as Students for Direct Action, we want to show students that you have that power, and you can and will show up for each other and provide for each other.”

For more information about Food Justice Now or Students for Direct Action, reach out to their Instagram account.

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