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UCM encounters obstacles offering free pancake breakfasts

About seven years ago, the university Christian ministries (UCM) club began serving free pancakes as a way to reach out to the UFV community. Every Thursday from 8:30 to 10 a.m., fresh pancakes were served in U-House. But as of the last week of November, UCM was asked by the university’s administration and Fraser Health to stop the pancake breakfasts.

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By Sonja Klotz (The Cascade) – Email

Image: Facebook / Joy Elya Penner

Image: Facebook / Joy Elya Penner

About seven years ago, the university Christian ministries (UCM) club began serving free pancakes as a way to reach out to the UFV community. Every Thursday from 8:30 to 10 a.m., fresh pancakes were served in U-House. But as of the last week of November, UCM was asked by the university’s administration and Fraser Health to stop the pancake breakfasts.

The tradition of serving pancake breakfasts to students started in U-House seven years ago. UCM president Corinna Fair noted that the location was a good fit for the breakfasts.

“It was nice — we were out of the way,” says Fair. “Students would come, and it was just a relaxed atmosphere.”

Student Life’s move from U-House to the new Student Union Building (SUB) this year presented obstacles for UCM. There were many new policies and standards being developed, and they were told that they would not be able to serve breakfast at the same time as the Canoe restaurant or Fair Grounds coffee shop. UCM also needed to make sure the free pancake service would not interfere with Sodexo, the university’s primary food services provider.

As for one part of the agreement for UCM to continue its breakfast tradition, “pancakes would stay in the Student Life area” to keep the crumbs at a minimum and prevent vermin.

UCM launched the weekly pancake breakfast in mid-September this year. Just three weeks shy of the end of semester, an email and a visit from Fraser Health resulted in the temporary suspension of the tradition.

“We were just sent an email that said that Fraser Health had received either some calls or complaints or something regarding pancakes,” says Fair. “I had no idea who those were or where they’re from, they were anonymous. We have been given just two options: either get a temporary food permit, which we are kind of looking into, or to only serve to our club members.”

Originally, UCM executives planned to work over the break to overcome this obstacle, but have since met with Kyle Baillie, UFV’s director of Student Life and development, to discuss the matter, and it looks like the breakfasts will continue in January, with a few extra measures taken to ensure food safety.

Martin Kelly, coordinator of student engagement at Student Life, spoke of UCM’s excellence of service, and said they are not to blame for the shut-down.

They are one of the most faithful providers of service,” Kelly said. “Every Thursday somebody’s always there at 7 [a.m.], setting up to do that and then cleaning up afterwards … At that time of day, it is very useful for students to keep UFV from becoming a food desert.”

He added that until now, there have been no complaints or health issues brought to his attention, making this an unusual circumstance for both Student Life and UCM.

“In the [past] years nothing has ever crossed my desk,” said Kelly. “We used to do community dinners as well, and not one case of illness, not one visit by Fraser Health.” As with most large institutions, when providing food services Student Life took initiative to ensure that there was always one individual with a Food Safe certificate present while serving any type of food to their students.

As an administrative coordinator for Student Life, Kelly sees this strictly as a bureaucratic problem, not a student club one, and he noted that planning for the SUB space included planning for food-sharing.

“UCM has no blame in this whatsoever,” says Kelly. “We had been working on this, on the design phase, since June 2009 knowing that Aboriginal [Access] was going to be our neighbours,” said Kelly. “We knew that food commensality, sharing food together, was going to be very important if we wanted to make what UFV quoted as a ‘vibrant social hub.’”

Overall, this procedural shutdown has come as a huge disappointment for students beyond UCM.

“Students are not happy about this,” said Kelly. “If you want to create a sense of place and a sense of home, and you want the new SUB building to start feeling like home, sharing food is a vital part of that, and I hope that anybody involved can get that together.”

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