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Op-Ed: Filling the void

Just over two months ago, my Board took over the direction of the Student Union Society; so far I’ve learned a great deal about the inner workings of the society, and have had to make decisions about where the society will be headed over the next year or so.

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Date Posted: June 14, 2011
Print Edition: June 10, 2011

By Carlos Vidal (SUS President) – Email

Just over two months ago, my Board took over the direction of the Student Union Society; so far I’ve learned a great deal about the inner workings of the society, and have had to make decisions about where the society will be headed over the next year or so.

As expected, there have been a lot of challenges, and it is our intention to have most of them put to rights – or at least headed in the right direction – by mid-August so that there is a new feeling to the society when the majority of students return in September. We are looking to strengthen our communication, liven up the environment at UFV with more on-campus entertainment, and above all, interact more with our membership.

That being said, I have been asked to address what is shaping up to be the biggest issue that we have had to deal with so far – food availability on campus, particularly in light of our decision to close Casey’s for the summer and establish the UFV Community Food Coalition in its absence.

When it comes to a secure food supply, three things are important: the food has got to taste good, it should be nutritious, and it must be easily available. In order to make sure that those three aspects of food security are achieved on the Abbotsford Campus this summer, we’ve been working with the University’s Student Life department, Baker House, the International Education Department, and Sodexo.

The idea for the program first came about because our VP Academic saw students struggling to be able to eat enough nutritional food when she was living in residence last summer. When the need to close Casey’s was becoming more apparent, we recognized that it would create a void in food availability on campus.

Along with this, we found out Sodexo was looking at possibly closing the cafeteria for part of the summer, and the new kitchen in Baker House wouldn’t yet be ready for use.

So what could we do? Well, as is one of our specialties at SUS, we decided we could give away some free food! At first our idea was to call it the Food Security Program, but once we were able to partner with the various departments it became a collective community effort, with each group having specific responsibilities. Together, the coalition decided to serve meals for a nominal fee each week, and so far everyone who is taking part is having fun.

I have to say that the move to close Casey’s this summer was in line with past operations of that very important service that we all enjoy, and that we are working to make sure the student lounge opens in the fall as a strong benefit to the student on-campus lifestyle, including student-priced food and beverages in a student-focused social hub.

There certainly has been some criticism as to why the society would even think of closing a venue that fills a social and food security niche, but it was a move that needed to happen.

The SUS is in charge of Casey’s and we have a manager on staff to oversee the operation. We fund it and we receive our funding from the students. The students would therefore be footing the bill of keeping the restaurant open – and last year’s bill was a deficit to the tune of more than $60,000 for the four summer months.

In the end, this decision was debated among board members for a long time and was finally made in the best interest of our members and our fiscal responsibility to them. And again – it gives us the chance to bring back Casey’s in the strongest incarnation that we can for the fall.

So all in all, we are addressing the issue of food security during the summer as best we can, and as always, we welcome any and all ideas from our membership about how to deliver lifestyle enhancements to UFV students.

Any student can feel free to contact me about the Community Food Coalition, or anything else really, by email. As our motto says, Engage Your SUS.

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