Blog posts tagged in Food Movement

written by Simone 

  OCAD University (OCADU) isn’t your typical Canadian post-secondary institution. Just as the name alludes to, the Ontario College of Art and Design University, located just several blocks from the Meal Exchange national office, is quite an  extraordinary campus. With fields of study ranging from Advertising, Photography, Environmental Design, and Printmaking, to name a few, this campus is quite the creative place to be.

 However, it's not the artistic aspects, nor the design elements of OCADU that enticed  a visit to the campus. It's also not the neighboring Art Gallery of Ontario. What truly sparked an interest in visiting the campus, after over a year of conversation between Meal Exchange and OCADU, hearing about the recently established student-run cafe, That Place on the Second Floor.  

 Earlier this month, I had the chance to sit down with Maiesha and Shelby, who work together to manage the cafe. Maiesha graduated from the Environmental Design Program at OCADU and works as the Cafe Coordinator at That Place on the Second Floor. When I asked Maiesha about how she ended up in the role, she explained that she had always had a passion for sustainability and environmentalism. Meanwhile, Shelby, who is studying Illustration at OCADU, works as the the Student Union Executive Director of Operations, supporting Maiesha and the rest of the cafe staff in running the place. Shelby and Maiesha were able to provide a great depth of insight on how That Place on the Second Floor was established.

 Before the cafe opened up in 2014, there had never been a cafe on campus. Students and faculty had to leave campus in order to grab a bite. Shelby explained that even though students had classes together, it was hard to keep a sense of community maintained on the campus without a common dining area. OCADU is, afterall, a commuter school.  

 Born out of this need to create a stronger sense of community on campus came the rising interest by the Student Union to open up a student-run cafe. Shelby mentioned that the cafe was a long time coming. Surveys had been circulated throughout the school for several years, asking students what they would like to see happen on campus. Without a doubt the number one suggestion was that students wanted to see a student run cafe.  


 Maiesha explained that on top of being a cafe by students, for students, the cafe is also focused on sourcing locally and sustainably. The pastries served at the cafe are handmade by a local Toronto bakery. It was a priority for the cafe to support local business as part of its sustainability goals. Additionally, the cafe serves fairtrade Canadian coffee, and uses a local food distribution service for stock and produce.



 According to Maiesha and Shelby, the biggest impact That Place on the Second Floor has the had at OCADU was creating the opportunity to carve out a place for students to hang out, socialize, interact and build a sense of community on campus. This was  really important, the two explained, as OCADU is a place where students can come together and share ideas, problem solve and become leaders together. With the cafe, students feel more welcomed on campus, having a space to mingle in-between and after classes. 


 OCAD University has a variety of programming that tackles food access and sustainability. There is the campus food bank, called The Starving Artist Pantry. But, what Maiesha and Shelby expressed was one of their favorite campus programs was the Hot Lunch Program, which served a pay-what-you-can meal on Thursdays. Currently, the program sees about 80 students attending every Thursday. It's important to note that this program both creates a space for community and conversation to take place, while also providing support for students who face financial strain. 

 When I asked Maiesha and Shelby what their biggest recommendations would be for other campuses looking to start a student-run cafe, they said that

1. You must be patient with the bureaucratic process. Mistakes will happen and things will take time. But it will all be worth it in the end.

2. You need to have administrative and faculty support. You can’t do it alone. If it is a campus community you want to serve, then it is a campus community you need support from.

I left That Place on the Second Floor munching on the best banana chocolate muffin, sipping the tastiest Canadian coffee, and excited about the amazing strides OCADU is taking in order to create a safe, welcoming and accessible campus for students. 





We're happy to share an update from the University of Manitoba Meal Exchange Chapter Coordinator, Abigail! 


Dear Friends and Colleagues at Meal Exchange,

We are happy to share the recent activities CFSG has been involved with at the University of Manitoba

Farmers' Market Visit


This June, in collaboration with the Office of Sustainability and UofM Students’ Union Community Garden, we were able to host a bike ride to St. Norbert Farmer’s Market. There are a variety of interesting and unique products sold at the market, but the best part about it is the opportunity to meet local farmers from Manitoba and learn about their efforts to maintain food sustainability.


 Umanitoba Food Website

Online Foodie Hub

We are also glad to share that CFSG is in the process of launching its official website by August 2015. We would like to thank other coordinators for sharing their experiences in website development with us. The purpose of our website will be to provide a central hub of information for students who want to learn more about sustainable food practices at the UofM. It will feature an about section, activities and events section, and a resources (including food venues, courses on food, food map, research, and nutrition/recipes) section." 


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Meal Exchange staffer, Michael Waglay, was able to catch up with Jaida Regan who just graduated from Dalhousie University. Here is the story of her rich campus life: 

Could you tell me about your first experience or encounter with Meal Exchange?


My first encounter with Meal Exchange was two years ago, when Lars, Owen and Hillary worked for Meal Exchange. They hosted a roundtable event to let people know about food services at Dalhousie and their future directions; I attended that event.


What was your impression of Meal Exchange when you started?


I got the impression that it was an open venue for students to get to know about campus food systems. It seemed open enough to allow for any ideas or concepts you wanted to work on on campus and they allow you to run with it.


Could you walk me through how you became involved in the Meal Exchange program at Dal?


At Dalhousie we didn’t have a Meal Exchange chapter, but we had a Campus Food Strategy Group, and it has Coordinator positions. I applied for one of those. I knew Sami Luke, who had the position before me, so I was familiar with the idea. I got the position and met Caitlin Colson, who worked at Meal Exchange. Caitlin supported me in running with the idea of the “campus as a living lab” for a project in my Sustainability Degree, where we worked on using reusable containers on campus; I was excited to work on that through the position. We’re still working on this project, but it is a really exciting process!


What would you say are some of your accomplishments on your campus? 

What’s unique about Dal is that there are several student-led food initiatives: there’s the community garden, the farmers’ market, the Loaded Ladle, our food bank, and the food strategy group, so I think the role of the campus food strategy group is to “raise the voices higher” of those groups--- not raise the voices higher, what’s another word for that…




Yeah, there you go! You know. The Campus Food Strategy Group helps people become aware of all the food issues on campus. One of the major accomplishments of the group was having almost all local food served at Orientation Week last year, something we’re planning to do again this upcoming O-week as well.

We developed a food board policy--- we’ve gotten all of members within the group excited about it, but now it will have to pass through council. We have a new student union executive too, so we’re starting to work with them.  

We also worked with the Ecology Action Centre, and we hosted a food policy workshop, which was really cool. We had students from all different universities like King’s College, and Mount Saint Vincent; students who study nutrition and others in social sciences and food policy. It was great to have an interdisciplinary group working together on these kinds of issues. We also worked with NSPIRG to host a film as part of the Cinema Politica series.

We got a paid position under the Dalhousie Students’ Union to do survey research to figure out what students think about food services and what direction it should go in. We also got a permanent position under Sustainability Office at Dal, which is the position I have. The positions have allowed us to ensure that we are able to transition to new students to get great work done.

How did connecting with Meal Exchange shape your university experience?

It shaped my experience considerably. I already had an interest in food, and my degree is in Sustainability and Political Science, so I kind of wanted to put a twist on it and focus on food policy. Being part of this program helped me decide to do my undergrad thesis on the Alternative Campus Food System at Dalhousie University.

Meal Exchange helped make me more aware of food issues--- this awareness led me to join the Food Action Committee of the Ecology Action Centre. It was nice that it wasn't just student-based, and it was a great place to meet different kinds of people to discuss different bills as they go through the government, like the issue around the Wheat Board.

Because of Meal Exchange, I also decided to do my graduate research on food waste in Canada. I’ll be studying this issue through my Masters in Geography at Guelph University starting this fall.


How will you continue working on social justice and environmental sustainability in the future?


I’m really interested in social justice and environmental justice, especially through food. Actually, I just visited the Guelph campus today and I already went to OPIRG to see what kind of programs they have to do with food. They have a Food Not Bombs Chapter, so I’d be interested in getting involved there. Right now it is not necessarily an occupation for me, but ongoing research. I’m also eager to continue volunteering my time with the Food Secure Canada Youth Caucus.

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After three years of connecting with the Meal Exchange network, Amy Brierly reflects on her experiences and shares how she'll continue to apply what she's learned in the future. 


When did you first connect with Meal Exchange?
The 2012 National Student Food Summit, right before I took on the role of Student Food Resource Coordinator at StFX. The National Student Food Summit was recommended to me by the past Student Food Resource Coordinator. The Summit was transformational. It helped me feel connected to something bigger and to know that students were making real changes on their campuses. The Summit helped to prepare and fuel me for my work on campus - I’ve gone back to the Summit every year since!

What are some of your accomplishments on your campus?
Each of the accomplishments achieved on campus were a group effort - made possible by a foundation built by my peers, community members, and the Meal Exchange network. The main accomplishment for me has definitely been building a better food system through collaboration. Through this collaboration we have seen many benefits, including the development of a Farmers’ Market on campus and moving the Student Food Resource Centre to a more accessible and welcoming space on campus.

How did connecting with Meal Exchange shape your university experience?
Meal Exchange has provided me with a safe space to share ideas and feel supported. The Meal Exchange network has helped me practice and shape my understanding of development, which is what I studied during my university career. Through my work with Meal Exchange, I’ve seen that as a student, my role extends far past the classroom and that I have the opportunity to make significant change on campus and within my community.

How will you continue food work into the future?
I was recently given a wonderful opportunity to be an OceanPath Fellow with the Pathy Family Foundation and Coady Institute. Through this fellowship I will be working with community groups in Antigonish who are working in the local food movement, specifically around a local food hub. I’m excited to hopefully bring what I’ve learned on campus into closer conversation with the larger movement and to collaborate on all sorts of initiatives with the community. My ties with St. FX will be important in this work, especially for supporting institutional procurement of local foods.

How would you like to continue to contribute to Meal Exchange in the future?
While I stay in Antigonish, I look forward to providing support to new student leaders, facilitate community connections, and stay in touch with the national office. Though I’m not sure what the future holds, I’d to continue to be apart of this movement indefinitely.

We wish Amy all the best in her next adventures and for her contributions to St. FX, Antigonish and the National Meal Exchange network.


Meal Exchange student leaders from the University of Calgary’s annual Hunger Week brought many inspiring events to raise awareness for food security on campus and in their community. With the theme of “Feeding the Body, Mind, and Soul” in mind, events like workshops and panel discussions examined food’s role in all aspects of health. Jesse Stanich, Co-Coordinator at Meal Exchange Calgary took some time to speak with Tim Li, Meal Exchange Communications Volunteer, on their exciting week.

Tim: What were some of the highlights of Hunger Week?

Jesse: Some of the highlights were handing out of snack packs at the beginning of the week and our event called "Views from the Loft", where we discussed the interconnected and cultural considerations of food. The buzz created by the snack pack event is always a good starting point to the week as we handed out information regarding the other events. Students also got a chance to voice their opinions on current food issues.

Tim: How did the students and faculty respond to and engage with the events?

Jesse: While there is room for improvement on the attendance frontier, I felt that individuals who attended the events got an excellent experience. Our staff at the Centre for Community-Engaged Learning and the Leadership and Student Engagement program were very engaged in the events and helped advertise them greatly.

Tim: What inspired this year's theme, “Feeding the Body, Mind and Soul” ?

Jesse: The Student Union Wellness Centre inspired much of our theme for this year. All events were shaped around their seven dimensions of wellness - physical, academic, mental, financial, social/cultural, environmental, and spiritual. Mental health is an increasingly important issue being raised on campus, and much of the inspiration for holistic wellness came from the desire to incorporate other aspects of wellness beyond the physical.

Tim: Could you tell me about the Hamper Project?

Jesse: The Hamper Project challenges 3 students to spend the week with different food restrictions to experience what it is like to have limited food access on campus. This year, 3 students ate exclusively halal, gluten/lactose free, or from the student food bank. It brought about a moment of realization for those who have little to no dietary restrictions. Being limited on campus in terms of food can be a large disadvantage in terms of diversity and availability of food in general. One of the biggest moments of the panel discussion in my opinion was when one of our biggest Halal advocates informed us that progress had been stopped in terms of bringing a larger diversity of Halal food to our Campus. This showed how even awareness and advocacy is sometimes not enough to bring about change; we need more real solutions to these problems if they have been raised.

Read more on the Hamper Project student experience here

Interested in starting a hunger week initiative on you campus? Contact your local Meal Exchange chapter or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Donating to Meal Exchange helps make hunger awareness events and other important work possible.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_b2ap3_thumbnail_planning-committee_20131126-142710_1.jpgIt’s hard to believe but the time has come to start planning for the 11th annual National Student Food Summit! Meal Exchange takes pride in creating a space where students and their like-minded peers are able to share experiences, thoughts, and ideas in pursuit of better food systems. Each year, a dedicated group of individuals known as the Planning Committee work to improve the Summit programming and overall delegate experience. The committee is made up of Meal Exchange staff, alumni, volunteers and past summit delegates, all with an interest in food issues and event planning.

Thanks to the amazing behind-the-scenes-work of past committees, we’ve experienced 10 successful years of the National Student Food Summit. This year we look forward to building upon the 2013 Summit with another strong committee of passionate leaders within the food movement.

Why join the 2014 Planning Committee?

  • It’s an extremely rewarding feeling to play a part in the positive experience people get from attending the Summit.
  • It’s a great opportunity to interact with a group of talented individuals, with different interests and skill sets all working towards a common goal.
  • Being a member of a planning committee for the National Student Food Summit is never a bad thing to put on your resume or bucket-list!

What are the commitments and expectations?

  • This is a working committee that will be responsible for executing on tasks such as marketing, content creation, and overall logistics.
  • Committee members are asked to commit approximately 8-10 hrs/month from January to August 2014.
  • Committee members are expected to participate in google+ hangouts on average twice a month (which will be an hour in length, weeknights anytime between 6pm and 9pm EST)

Who is eligible to join the committee?

  • Meal Exchange has an extensive network of campus youth, alumni, and volunteers who are all encouraged to submit an application.
  • If you are someone interested in working with Meal Exchange and has a passion for addressing food issues and/or event planning; we want to hear from you!

If this is an opportunity that feels right for you, click here to fill out the NSFS 2014 - Planning Committee Application Form [Submission Deadline - Monday, December 16th, 2013] 

Have a question that isn't answered here? This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , and he'll help you out!

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With great difficulty - Wayne is a wealth of information about all things food. But I'll try to relay the highlights of last week's FoodShare event that also featured speakers and inspiration from food movement leaders and thinkers Debbie Field of FoodShare, Jeff Westman of California Farmlink, and Tony Winson from the University of Guelph. The panel was moderated by Donna Tranquada of the inspiring Food and Water First Initiative.

Some food for thought to take away:

Industrial Food - It’s in our fields...and also in our heads

Since World War II, our food system has seen significant shifts toward industrialization - from planting to processing to the time it reaches our plates, the food we eat is significantly mechanized and relies heavily on machinery. We’re not just eating this type of food though, we’re thinking and living this food culture. As Wayne Robert’s explains, the mechanization of food has stretched beyond our fields and plates. We’ve adopted an industrial food mentality and culture too. The way society is relating to food is increasingly instrumental, looking for a quick fix for nutrition, or fast fuel for the day. Eating a granola bar on the run might be a quick fix for hunger, but it’s really treating food as an afterthought; a means to an end.

The more we can relate to food as it provides holistic nourishment (mental and physical), builds community, and connects us to place, the more we can benefit from what whole food has to offer. As Tony Winson assures us, there is an alternative - food can be slow, whole, and not only draw from our environment, but also nourish the land and communities from which it grows.

What’s more, while bad food is connected to mental health issues, good food can offer support for positive mental health.

Our disconnected and nutrient-poor food system is connected to more than poor nutrition and bad eating habits; it’s also been linked to mental health issues. While mental health effects are less obviously visible, they are as profound as the physical health problems that result from bad food. Our minds and bodies alike require nourishment from whole, connected foods. Centred on values of empowerment and connection, the alternative food movement presents eaters with healthy, nutritious foods as well as opportunities to create relationship-rich food systems that reflect personal values and connect people to surrounding places, cultures, and environments.

Hopeful models for change are making their mark

Despite the deep rooted complications and the vast reach of the mainstream food system, alternatives and solutions-oriented approaches to healthier food systems are growing up all around us. Cuba and Brazil are exemplary models that are effectively addressing hunger by working with their communities and providing services that offer healthy and accessible foods. FoodShare’s Debbie Field assures us that within the “belly of the beast” an alternative food system is being built that is bridging new relationships and equitable exchanges between producers and consumers. Programs that are intervening from early ages, like school nutrition programs and farm visits, are reconnecting the next generation to sources of food, nutritional values, and community-based food systems at a critical age.

Overall, it was a great event that left everyone with a lot to think about. There are a lot of exciting things happening in the food movement, and it's important to remember that although change is slow, even small actions, choices, and dialogues can positively impact our food system.

If you’re looking for a deeper dive into these types of questions and solutions, pick up a copy of Wayne Roberts’ No Nonsense Guide to World Food.

Meal Exchange Supports Bill C-539 to help create a federal strategy to support local food procurement in all federal institutions. Bill C-539 encourages the government to create a nation-wide buy-local strategy and establish a procurement policy for all federal institutions. By creating a framework that favors local food products, we can support Canadian producers, create jobs, reduce pollution resulting from transportation, and support resilient Canadian food systems.

4 Reasons why we support this bill:

  1. Citizens and residents of Canada who buy local food support our farmers, our agricultural industry and our economy;
  2. Buying local food cuts down on transportation and greenhouse gas emissions, keeps local dollars in local economies and strengthens regional supply chains;
  3. Buying local means that producers have stable markets and that Canadians can have access to fresh and nutritious food; and
  4. Federal departments and agencies should lead by example and support Canadian farmers by buying local food.

For these reasons, Meal Exchange is supporting a national strategy to promote local food. We believe it is important to support our farmers and our local food products.

Read more about why the Canadian Federation of Agriculture supports Bill C-539. If you share these views, click here to sign a petition to show your support.