As the sun went down over campus, the smell of deep-fried donuts, freshly grilled smokies and other delicious food kept the lineups long and the crowd large at TRUSU’s Food Truck Festival last week.
By about 7 p.m. the crowd had grown in numbers to a few hundred, and the lineups twisted through the grass and crowded around the food trucks.
Standing in the line for Cookshack Cravings, we spoke with first-year engineering student Annika Jane, who said the lines were “madness.” On the topic of the Hungry for Choice campaign she said, “it’s hard to know with the bureaucracy what works and what doesn’t, but it’s always nice when petitions do work out – you feel like, as a people, you actually do have a voice.”
Members of the students’ union and student caucus were busy, up and down the lines and throughout the crowd taking signatures for their petition from willing students and curious bystanders. The Hungry for Choice campaign aims to change the university’s approach to food service contracts by making the agreements more diverse and allowing more than one contractor on campus.
Sierra Rae, TRUSU’s women’s representative, said at the event that there are limitations to having just one contractor in charge of managing all of the food services on campus.
“That is one thing we find with an exclusive contract. There’s a lot of times the quality of food is lacking because there is no competition. Anyone going for a business degree can see that sometimes competition can be a good thing. It basically provides students with a lot more options.”
The petition is asking students, staff, faculty and members of the community to “call on Thompson Rivers University to take immediate action to introduce competition to campus food service.”
TRUSU chose to kick-off the campaign with a food-based event. Local food trucks from around B.C. were a symbol of the variety of choices being missed with a sole contract on food services around campus, Rae said.
The vendors serving food at the event were Eats Amoré, A&D Dogs, Cookshack Cravings, Lakeside Concession & Mini-Donuts, and Legit Food. Five per cent of the vendor’s profits will be donated to the Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association in an effort to help support their work. The remaining profit from the event will go back to the vendors.
The food services management company Aramark Ltd. was awarded a sole contract to oversee all nine of the food service locations on campus.
Aramark also made donations to the university and is noted as a “Contributor,” having donated between $5,000 and $10,000 to TRU.
Lino Caputo, a fourth-year arts student and president of the TRUSU Pride Club, spoke with The Omega about his personal frustration with the restrictions on food services when trying to plan club events over the last four years.
He says the club has tried in the past to bring in alternative catering options but were told it was not an option that was available to them. “Even things like bringing in snacks, sometimes those are policed by Aramark as well, so it makes it difficult to supply our food at an efficient cost, especially being non-profit organizations,” Caputo said.
The TRUSU Pride Club has even opted to take events off-campus to venues around town for more options.
“It creates this toss-up where you wonder: are you going to attract more students by keeping it on campus but having to pay more… or do you take it off-campus and hope that people will still come?” Caputo said.