Picture this: You’ve just gotten out of class and as you head down to the MarketPlace to grab some food, you find that it’s closed. On other occasions, you have forgone visiting the MarketPlace because the price makes a larger dent in your wallet than the food does in your stomach. Either that, or you did not have a good experience with the vendors on your previous visit.
These experiences are familiar to many UTSC students who are frustrated by the price, portion size, hours, quality, and customer service at food vendors in the MarketPlace, Student Centre, and other locations around campus.
Third-year health studies and psychology student Linh Tang expresses displeasure with campus food saying, “Certain outlets on campus are pretty pricey…Occasionally, I see other employees who don’t work the usual station, at which point my food is subpar or not as good as usual, which is kind of upsetting when I’m paying $6 – $12.”
Tang also says that she “really dislike[s] hours on campus. [The] student centre is pretty convenient but it’s pretty awful having Subway as the only option on campus past 7 p.m.”
Jackie Wang, a third-year computer science student, echoes the same sentiment with vendor hours, but commends the food quality saying, “If you’re hungry at night you’re going to need to look elsewhere as the hours of operation for these food plazas are terrible. The food quality here at UTSC is decent, nothing amazingly special about it, but it will keep you full and going throughout the day. Besides the food from the MarketPlace, the portions and quality of food are good for the price you pay.”
In March 2016, a few students created a Facebook group called UTSC Food Strike to address these issues and propose a boycott of food options on campus. The strike never happened, with students deciding to voice their concerns through other means like UTSC’s Food User Committee.
The current Vice President Operations of SCSU Yasmin Rajabi explains that, “The Food User Committee is composed of individuals who manage and own the food options on campus as well as administrative UTSC staff. The students were able to share the results of their feedback survey on food options on campus and express their opinion on food options.”
“At this meeting,” Rajabi says, “we struck a subcommittee called the Food User Feedback Committee. We met at this body to discuss the best way possible to receive feedback on food options on campus and holding vendors accountable.”
Now, several months after the initial proposed boycott and the implementation of the Food User Feedback Committee, what has changed? As of yet, not much. Tang says that during summers at UTSC, “if you want food from the MarketPlace, you can only get it until 3 p.m…I’m on campus for way longer than 3 p.m.”
Both Tang and Wang say that they would like to see longer hours for campus vendors, with Tang also saying “more variety on campus” would be ideal.
In response, Rajabi says that, “During the summer, myself, as the VP Operations, alongside the rest of the SCSU team have been working hard to revamp Rex’s Den to meet student needs. One of the biggest changes that students wanted was cheaper food options. As we are developing the completely new Rex’s Den menu, we are striving to ensure everything is as cheap as possible. We did have a small appetizer menu out in the summer, but we will be rolling out the whole new menu in September.”
She also mentions that, “Currently the university, in conjunction with the SCSU and students involved, are developing a Feedback Campaign that will allow students to voice their opinions on food options and ensure that vendors are being held accountable to addressing concerns.”
UTSC launched a feedback form online a few months ago in which students could provide feedback on the various vendors around campus. As it stands now, however, students can only provide feedback for Asian Gourmet.
As for a potential strike, Rajabi “recommend[s] students explore all avenues, and follow the campaign mobilization cycle before jumping into a boycott, to ensure that an action like it is successful.”
If students want to voice their opinions on the food on campus or propose new services that the SCSU can implement, you can request to join the Food User Committee by emailing Yasmin Rajabi at [email protected].