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Student Life looks to improve campus food service standards

It’s evident that a lot of good comes from student run food-based fundraisers and community dinners including the obvious benefit of financial capital, but the underlying team building skills are one of the real strengths and reasons Kelly wants to see these events continue. They “improve the governance and leadership of groups all the way around…they are forced to have meetings, organize publicize and promote, and work together as a team.”

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By Joe Johnson (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: July 4, 2012

“It’s not about the money, it’s about the leadership.”

At least, this is how Student Life programmer Martin Kelly describes student run food-based fundraisers and community dinners.

These types of student events have been a mainstay for years now at UFV and Kelly is hoping it stays that way.

Everything from the University Christian Ministries’ Free Pancake Breakfast every Thursday to the Theatre Student’s Association’s Samosa Sale have been initiatives run by students for various causes.

It’s evident that a lot of good comes from these including the obvious benefit of financial capital, but the underlying team building skills are one of the real strengths and reasons Kelly wants to see these events continue. They “improve the governance and leadership of groups all the way around…they are forced to have meetings, organize publicize and promote, and work together as a team.”

As well, “All the food stuff that everybody does plays a huge role in developing the UFV community.”

Currently, when these fundraisers and dinners happen, they’re initially run through Student Life for the purpose of scheduling.  At least that’s how it would go in an ideal situation. Sodexo, who has complete exclusivity for food on campus, allows two of these a month – although this is not stated in any contract.

Groups typically abide by this, but because it’s not a formal rule they can strike off on their own – against Sodexo’s wishes.

By running things through Student Life, Kelly has managed to keep the communication line with Sodexo open. According to Cameron Roy, manager of UFV’s ancillary services, the importance of this arrangement is that “food services need to know that there’s pizza’s going for $2 a slice on campus today, so they’d kind of scale back their pizza production for the day.”

Given Sodexo, who’s been here since 2001 and will be until at least until 2016, is a profit-and-loss business and have been in the loss column for the past two years, they have been very good working alongside these fundraisers. Sodexo’s “not looking to compete with the student fundraisers, they understand the fundraisers, and many times have cooperated with them and supported them” stated Roy.

Douglas Fowler, General Manager for Sodexo’s Food Services at UFV, stated “as far as sales go from Student Union and things like that…if they give us a heads up and it makes sense then we don’t want to stand in the way of anything that is a good cause.”

He also went on to say that “it’s not a competition to us for someone to sell samosas, or someone to sell donuts or something, if they’re raising…for breast cancer awareness.”

However, there are problems on the horizon that need to be addressed quickly. All parties have commented on the need for a change in regulation.

Kelly has been driving to formalize the procedure as he fears “the first time there’s a disaster then it’s all going to stop, guaranteed.”

Fowler stated that, “our biggest concern here from a food exclusive perspective is not so much the business side of it; it’s the food safety issue.”

“When people bring food in from the outside, and people do it at potlucks all the time, and someone will order catering or food from us and someone will bring food in, and that gets mixed together and somebody gets sick, they’re going to tie it to us. That’s the whole issue, it’s about food safety.”

“I get very nervous when people are bringing in food and we have our standards, cooking standards, holding standards, cooling standards…it’s about the protection of the public.”

And ultimately, the food safety concern is one tied to liability.

For Kelly, that means transferring that liability away from students who if they personally prepared that fundraising food could be on the hook.

This is why Kelly wants to see the process formalized where he can insist that groups do present it to Student Life to sign off on. By doing so, this approval by a University department transfers the risk to UFV.

“This is about, a lot, shifting the liability to the institution. The cost of which is increased bureaucracy and paper work, and training. That’s going to be the cost.”

When asked if the University would be on board with accepting the student risk, “Well this is what remains to be seen.” said Kelly.

To alleviate the potential for risk in the future, and make it easier for the University to accept, it could come down to requiring Food Safe certifications.

Coming from Kelly, “I’m going to put out there, that if you want to hold a sanctioned food sale on the UFV campus, or if you’re going to hold a community dinner, your group is going to hold a community dinner, then one person at least in the group is going to have to have gone through FOODSAFE training.”

For a full transition plan to be finalized a lot of details still need to be worked, but for Kelly, “All I’m after are like really clear rules”.

“It’s obviously a fairly complicated issue, it’s not about the money. I don’t think that a whole lot of people understand the value or import of the whole food thing to student groups in the development of leadership.”

Kelly sees the next step for this to happen will be a stakeholders meeting.

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