TRU’s food service consultation marked as a major success

Over 2,800 students, faculty and staff gave their thoughts on how to make food service better

Some of PKC’s short-term recommendations included expanding TRU’s retail offerings and extending hours at central locations. (Aidan Grether/The Omega)

Early last month, over two years of work by the TRU Students’ Union culminated in the final report of the campus food services review. The review, which was initially undertaken as a response to TRUSU’s Hungry for Choice campaign in 2016, was made possible by the participation of 2,815 students, staff, faculty and administration in the food service consultation survey.

“You look at our survey results, we had almost 3,000 people participate in it,” said TRUSU president Tatiana Gilbert. “I’m just ecstatic, it is so rewarding to see what happens when students go beyond what they’re learning in the classroom. Their input and their participation has the power to change a lot on campus.”

While the company who drafted the final review, Porter-Khouw Consulting (PKC), may have finished their role, much work is still to be done in implementing the recommendations they outlined.

In their review, PKC suggested that TRU implement the following short-term enhancements (changes to be made within one year) to the university’s food service: expand the number and variety of food trucks, improve the existing spaces by looking at ways to add seating and provide more variety, identify additional spaces to expand retail offerings, consider expanding the hours of operation at one or more of the centrally-located retail locations and expand menu offerings to include more breakfast items.

However, before many of these changes take place, executives from Aramark will be coming to campus to specifically address PKC’s recommendations.

“In the short-term we are going to renew our contract with Aramark for the next five years,” said TRU vice-president administration and finance Matt Milovick. “They are going to come visit us in January and meet with the Food Services Committee and say here’s what we can do in respect to the short term recommendations and they might have ideas on the long term recommendations.”

Milovick adds that perhaps the easiest and most-common sense short-term solution will be to allow a fourth food truck on campus.

“In the immediate short term the plan is to add a fourth food truck on campus,” he said.

In addition to this, the Food Services Committee will be replaced by a food services advisory group and become a more permanent fixture on campus.

“While the Food Services Committee will meet for the last time in January, we will put together a food services advisory group that will likely meet quarterly or once a term, just so we can provide updates,” Milovick said.

In the future, TRU may decide to construct a dining hall in the bookstore as part of PKC’s medium-term (two to five years) recommendations. However, PKC admits that this isn’t an optimal scenario. As well, Milovick believes that the university would be better off investing in a large centrally-located dining hall, as per PKC’s long-term recommendations.

“We’ll look at it, but my gut says no. I don’t want to put a small scale dining hall that can ultimately undo the success of a major project,” Milovick said. “Even with the bookstore dining hall, you’re still looking at $5-6 Million and I’d rather invest that in a proper collegium.”

While a dining hall at TRU may be more than a few years away and much work is still to be done in the immediate future, both administration and TRUSU have reason to celebrate the consultation’s success.

“None of this would be possible without the input and help of the entire campus community,” Gilbert said. “Just to put this into perspective, when we do our student budget consultation we’ll get around 400 people participating in that and we’re out campaigning for two weeks. Compared to that, this is just unreal. We’re so happy with all the support that we got.”