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b2ap3_thumbnail_Screen-Shot-2013-02-14-at-4.42.26-PM.pngFor any student interested in a short-term volunteer opportunity that makes a huge difference in sustainable campus purchasing, consider applying to join the Student Standards Committee!

 

Meal Exchange is seeking a team of students from across Canada to join the Student Standards Committee (SSC), Round 2.  The SSC will refine standards for campus purchasing across Canada.  Please visit our website at this link for more information, and please forward to all student networks.

 


Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until January 29th. Please send a cover letter to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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2016 was full of surprises.

At Meal Exchange, 2016 was full of incredible accomplishments and impact. Read on to see our countdown of 2016 highlights! 

Over $300,000 worth of food was collected through Trick or Eat to support 85 food agencies across Canada. 5000 youth were involved in their community and 87% of them will continue to volunteer throughout the year.
85 from 35 campuses attended the National Student Food Summit to share ideas, skills, and hopes for building more just and sustainable food systems
We launched the Real Food Challenge Canada with 6 pilot campuses, 35 advisors, and a team of 30 students. All are involved in understanding where food is coming from on campuses and how we can shift $1 billion of campus food purchases in North America towards fair, humane, community-based and ecological food sources.

We conducted the largest cross-campus student food insecurity report: ‘Hungry for Knowledge’. We found alarming rates of food insecurity within student populations and are working to find solutions to end student poverty in 2017.

We provided meaningful job opportunities for 25 students from across Canada to gain experience working in an organization that fosters community building, innovation, and personal development.

We hosted our first west coast conference to connect students across B.C., provide ally-ship training, and launch the committee on indigenous food sovereignty and the ‘decolonizing the table’ book club.
We supported 7 campus gardens to grow and flourish -  they grew well over 20,000 pounds of organic and sustainable food and employed more than 15 young growers.
The media listened. From Maclean’s magazine and the Toronto Star to local newspapers and radio stations, Meal Exchange was in the media more than 50 times this year, and we presented at over 10 conferences to share the voice of the Meal Exchange Network and your work!
We wrote a cookbook and supported the growth and development of 5 campus community kitchens.
We reached over 100,000 students on communities across Canada to make a difference through the power of food. 
 

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"I believe that food is a way to positively make an impact and tackle many of the issues that we are faced with today. From climate change and civil unrest to water quality and poverty, food impacts people’s lives every day. Meal Exchange uses the power of food to inspire young people to build communities that are healthy – for people, planet, and place." -- Sarah Archibald

Meal Exchange staff are passionate and ambitious. Sarah, our Operations, Program and Opportunities Manager was interviews on the Cilantro Cooks Blog. Read on to learn more about why Sarah loves Meal Exchange and the future she sees for the student food movement.

 

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kaitlynKaitlyn Fraser, Real Food Challenge Researcher and Campus Coordinator at UVic, shares her experience with Meal Exchange this summer, from intensive research to fun weekends at the BC Summer Retreat.  This post can also be found in UVic's Department of Sociology Newsletter, Volume I Issue II (Fall 2016) on page 8.

I spent my time this summer with a wonderful organization, Meal Exchange (http://mealexchange.com), as their UVic Real Food Campus Coordinator. With the support of food services on campus, I was successful in auditing $35,000 worth of food purchased in February 2016 by UVic for the Mystic Market dining hall. Using Meal Exchange’s Real Food Guide and Calculator, I was able to determine the percentage of this food that can be considered “real” (community based, ecologically sustainable, socially just, and humane). I was also able to attend Meal Exchange’s BC Retreat in Nanaimo where I met students from across Canada who share a passion for improving food on post-secondary campuses. We heard from various speakers on a variety of different topics relating to the food system including Indigenous Food Sovereignty, aquaponics, and temporary migrant workers. We also toured various farms around Nanaimo, helping with a few daily tasks on the farm as a form of sweat equity. This summer was a breath of fresh air and has relit my passion for challenging our current global food system. This fall I will be completing the research for my MA thesis where I attempt to unravel my food consumption choices and the tensions and confusions that come with aligning these choices with my personal beliefs around social justice, equality, and environmental sustainability. I will also be helping to establish a Meal Exchange chapter at UVic and encourage anyone who is interested in joining to get in touch ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ). ~ Katie Fraser

 

uhaFall Reflection; Summer Success

As we get into the chilly fall season, we'd like to take a minute to reflect on our successes of the summer.  One unprecedented success was the first-ever B.C. Summer Retreat.  With support from the Underwater Harvesters Association, the City of Nanaimo, the B.C. Dairy Association, the Real Estate Foundation of B.C., Vancity and the Vancouver Foundation and many other supporters, Meal Exchange hosted the B.C. Summer Retreat this past August in Nanaimo, B.C. for post-secondary students passionate about working for just, humane and sustainable food systems through the Real Food Challenge. 

Meal Exchange is so thankful for the support of the Underwater Harvesters Association

The Underwater Harvesters Association (UHA) is a non-profit organization aligning geoduck clam license holders across the BC coast. As an indigenous species with slow maturation rates, special care must be taken to maintain the sustainability of the geoduck fisheries. The UHA, and its members, work hard to meet and succeed standards.  Divers do more than simply harvest geoduck; in conjunction with the Canadian government, and important stakeholders, contractors conduct regular testing of water quality, surveys of wild populations, and collect data to analyze and determine the most sustainable practices. The UHA is also actively seeking to supplement the geoduck population by seeding appropriate habitats. They set precedent with their innovative approach which holds the viability of the ocean as paramount, while ensuring the security of their partners, and the safety of their customers.

Meal Exchange and the UHA: Partners in Creating Sustainable Food Systems

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Meal Exchange and the UHA were first introduced back in 2009 when Celia White, now a Meal Exchange employee, began working with the UHA as a deckhand on a geoduck boat.  She saw first-hand how dedicated the industry is to creating sustainable seafood systems and working with First Nations to co-manage the geoduck resource.

 

 

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The UHA and the B.C. Summer Retreat

The Underwater Harvesters Association has been indispensable in the planning of the first-ever B.C. Retreat. Through their support, Meal Exchange was able to make the Retreat accessible to dozens of participants across B.C. and include content on sustainable seafood, including a hands-on workshop about aquaponics greenhouses.  Meal Exchange is so grateful to partner with organizations that share our values, such as the UHA, to shape the future of sustainable food systems in Canada.

To learn more about the Underwater Harvesters Association’s mission and research, visit their website at: http://www.geoduck.org.

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Op-ed written by Meal Exchange student leader: Alex Prong 

 With Halloween fast approaching, Canadian non-profit Meal Exchange ramps up for its biggest event of the year: Trick or Eat. While the event itself raises funds and non-perishable food donations for the London Food Bank, event organizers do not forget the broader issues of poverty and inequality that lay behind food insecurity. On a holiday where overconsumption runs rampant, the food insecurity of 26,000 Londoners is a tough issue to tackle, but an important one. Food is a political issue. We have enough food on the planet to feed every person and then some: we produce enough for one and a half times the world’s population (about 10 billion people). But still people aren’t getting enough food to eat – not just overseas, but right in this city as well. In London, 80,000 people make an income lower than the cost of living, and 3,600 households access one of the city’s 21 food banks every month. It doesn’t matter if the food is being produced if there is no way for people to access it. In addition to inaccessibility, food quality is often staggeringly different depending on class. In both Central and Old East London “food deserts” exist where grocery stores simply don’t stock fresh vegetables and fruits. When grocers do stock the healthier foods, they are often priced so ludicrously high that families cannot afford to make the healthy choice. Often an apple will cost more than a burger, and fast food will become the only option for impoverished families. This rings true in London where 2/3 people are not eating the recommended serving of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. Meal Exchange’s Trick or Eat is a temporary help for a bigger issue. The event takes place on October 31st every year. Students dress up and canvas the neighborhood in teams collecting cans and other non-perishables. In London, the volunteers go to the general community around Masonville Mall, but similar campaigns are carried out across Canada. Although this is a great way to tangibly help those who are food insecure, the organizers understand that there are underlying causes to food insecurity, and members spend the rest of the year volunteering to hand out meals and talk to those who are impacted by the issue. Living in this city we have a responsibility to restore dignity to those whose basic human needs are not being met. London has poverty levels that are much higher than comparable cities, and the 2nd lowest rate of employment in Ontario. As members of this community it is our duty to work towards finding a solution for the structural reasons behind this kind of inequality. We need to take an intersectional look at poverty: what is different for people who have different ethnicities, sexualities, and genders? With these questions in mind we can start to build a community based on inclusivity and equality, and in a community of that sort, food insecurity could begin to wane away. 

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This past year has been a journey. Since I learned about the Real Food Challenge at Meal Exchange’s 2015 National Student Food Summit, I tend to find myself lying in bed at night thinking about food systems. The Real Food Challenge is important for many reasons. It allows students to audit their school’s purchasing and improve food system transparency. It creates a common ground where students across Canada who are interested in food systems can join together and engage in a meaningful way. All of this is great. But perhaps the greatest part of this project is the personal growth it allows. While this growth is unquantifiable, it’s also unmistakable. The Real Food Challenge forces students to constantly question their values. While there are both joys and frustrations along the way, every experience is invaluable. It’s for this reason that the past year has truly been a tremendous journey.

The journey began when I wanted to make this a research course at McGill. While I knew so little at the time, I could already tell there was something special about the project. Therefore, I worked tirelessly with a professor to make this project a reality. The months devoted to preparing this research class, along with the research class itself, were some of the most tiring ones of my life. It was tiring for many reasons – I was orchestrating relationships between Meal Exchange, my class of nine students, and McGill Food Services throughout this whole process. As previously mentioned, it was also morally frustrating. Constantly questioning your values and beliefs is exhausting and only creates more questions.

Since this experience, I have been working on the Real Food Challenge even more. I obtained a summer position that allowed me to work with Meal Exchange to help develop the project, while also working with McGill Food Services to research more food in the cafeterias. These months have forced me to further question my values, and they have been quite strenuous. But throughout this whole journey, I have not regretted it for an instance. Researching food systems is like nothing else. The relationships formed and personal growth show me the process is worth it. To anyone interested in getting their hands dirty and learning more about this project: I would highly encourage it. No matter where this journey takes you, it will be worth it.

 

Meal Exchange – Real Food Student Standards Committee: Callout for Volunteers

Are you a post-secondary (masters or undergraduate) student who cares about the environment, social justice and food systems? Are you interested in setting standards to change the way campuses purchase food? Join Meal Exchange this Fall in the first-ever Canadian Student Standards Committee.

Background

The Real Food Challenge is a project of Meal Exchange that aims to leverage the power of post-secondary institutions and their students to shift $1 billion of food purchases toward food systems that are ecologically-sound, socially-just, humane, community-based and transparent. This is accomplished through the Real Food Calculator, an online platform that allows students to audit their campus’ purchasing data to determine the % of ‘Real Food’ on campus, and to challenge their campus to reach a higher standard.

However, before Meal Exchange can formally launch the Real Food Challenge, we must first work with students across Canada to finalize our standards. We are seeking a diverse team of knowledgeable, passionate students to help write the final draft of the Canadian Real Food Guide, which will reflect the values of students across the country and transform institutional purchasing practices for years to come.

Goals & Objectives

The Student Standards Committee will contribute to the design of the Real Food Challenge standards in order to make this project:

  • Academically-rigorous
  • Robustly-informed
  • Comprehensive
  • Accessible
  • Relevant and responding to current social and ecological contexts
  • Transparent
  • Consensus-Based

Structure

  • Two committee co-chairs:6 – 10 student representatives
    • Meal Exchange Staff (1)
    • Elected Student Representative (1)

Commitment and Responsibilities

  • Attend weekly meetings, 1-2 hours per week, September – December
  • Synthesize feedback, consult with Advisors, take initiative to strengthen the overall program, 3-5 hours per week, September – December

* We recognize that your availability has the potential to be varied, particularly depending on the time of the semester.

Benefits of Participation

  • Meal Exchange engages post-secondary students and food organizers across Canada: As a member of the Student Standards Committee, you will engage with hundreds of students, academics and professionals across Canada
  • Meal Exchange is the only national organization that works with food systems on the post-secondary level: Be part of the first team in Canada to set cohesive, robust and transparent standards for campus food purchasing
  • The Real Food Challenge will assess and evaluate current institutional food procurement and help advise on opportunities for change: As a member of the Student Standards Committee, you will have the opportunity to inform and shape the Real Food Challenge standards that will transform institutional purchasing for years to come
  • Meal Exchange is connected to the national and international food movement: Receive hands-on training and experience with a professional, highly-esteemed youth-based organization, with public acknowledgement for your contribution and the opportunity for positive references and résumé building

How to Apply

  • Please send a Cover Letter to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by Saturday October 1st, midnight PST
  • Please include the following information in your Cover Letter:
    • Name, age, school, current year of study and expected year of graduation
    • Why are you applying to be a member of the Student Standards Committee?
    • How would you personally contribute to the diversity of the Student Standards Committee?
    • How would your experience, passion or knowledge help to meet the goals and objectives of the Student Standards Committee?
    • What are skills that you would like to gain from this experience?

* Please note that Meal Exchange will be facilitating a National Indigenous Food Sovereignty Committee later in the Fall. If you or anyone you know would be interested in forming relationships between campuses and Indigenous Communities, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Lina Chaker is the Meal Exchange University of Windsor Chapter Coordinator. Lina has been involved with Meal Exchange as a volunteer for three years. Her passion and interest in being an food activist drove her to get more involved in Meal Exchange.

This summer, Lina has been busy advocating for real food and gathering creative ideas to get more volunteers involved. Lina has seen a massive difference in her University and community. Through connections to Meal Exchange, the Chapter volunteers worked with the chefs to use produce grown in their community gardens on campus and hosted cooking demos that can help educate students on eating healthy and about using real ingredients in every meal.

Currently, Lina and her supporters are working to create a Food Hub on campus. The goal is to educate students about healthy eating and provide them with a space where they can take fresh food for themselves. This way, students will be able to learn about growing healthy natural foods and depend on their own skills to be healthy. In Lina's eyes, Meal Exchange provides support to create just and sustainable food systems while supporting students to have an entrepeneurial spirit.  Going forward, Lina wants to focus on the different initiatives Meal Exchange offers.

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 Susan Kim, masters student at the University of Victoria is Meal Exchange's Lead on Food Sovereignty Co-Coordinator. Susan sat down with Meal Exchange summer staff, Lisa Alton, to discuss her reflections of her work with Meal Exchange this summer. 

Lisa: How did you come to work with Meal Exchange this summer?

Susan:I knew Dana and Sarah from beforehand and they got me interested in Meal Exchange so I started following them on twitter, and then saw the job posting, and here I am!

 

L:What did you learn through your work with Meal Exchange this summer?

S:I learned that food systems are complicated and even just looking at it through the post-secondary lens is already very complicated, but it’s good to see the hands-on approach Meal Exchange takes to make practical differences. Conversations with Kaitlyn (The Real Food Challenge Coordinator) have been enlightening about what’s happening on the ground, in juxtaposition to talking about food in an abstract way in my research. It’s interesting to see the ways scholarship and the real world collide. I also learned about confronting my settler identity and my implicity benefits from the food system colonization. It allowed me to genuinely start the process of concrete decolonization.

L: How so?

S: “It may not seem concrete, but the power of language and using language in new ways is something I’ve been intentional about. There’s a park in Victoria called Beacon Hill Park but it’s real name is “Meegan”, meaning ‘warmed by the sun’. I try to use its Indigenous name to recognize the land.”

 

L: What impact have you seen/hope to see this upcoming year on campus or in your community?

S:With MX, I’m super lucky to be a TA, so I can highly recommend students to get involved with different organizations such as the Real Food Challenge. On a more big picture level, I would love to have more traditional cook-outs, and see a revival and resurgence of traditional food practices that overcome institutional bureaucracy, which in itself is oppressive and colonial.

 

LL What are you looking forward to this year on campus?

Another season of wild strawberries! There’s a batch on campus that only a few of us know about and it’s so nice. I’m also looking forward to seeing students get involved in the movement. While I’m TAing food systems courses, I hope I can be influential in showing students about food sovereignty, food regimes, food justice and food deserts, and introduce them to the campus garden. I can’t wait to tell them how successful it’s been. Lastly, I’m looking forward to seeing another generation of students coming in who will be exposed to these ideas and hopefully act on them, integrating them into their politics and whatever they do in the future.  

Meram Riad, MX Chapter Coordinator at Waterloo shares her passion for food and reflections from her summer with Meal Exchange.

Ever since Meram started off in Science Business, she fell in love with environmental sustainability and resource management. Meram has strong passion for food systems and edible gardening. Meram found Meal Exchange and decided to get involved.

Meram attended Meal Exchange’s National Food Summit, where she facilitated a pallet gardening workshops and attended an aquaponics workshop. What she loves best about Meal Exchange is the how it creates a huge difference in the world. Meal Exchange not only allowed her to get involved in making a change, but taught her soft and technical skills. Meram has learnt a lot about networking, recruiting volunteers and managing time. 

Meram hopes to educate students on food justice and the importance of using farm grown foods in restaurants and schools. Mearm goal is to focus on community kitchens. Students who don't have the time or money to eat a healthy meal can depend on community kitchens and not on canned or junk food. Meram says that the concept of students eating ramen noodles and burgers during their school years is not a joke, but a sad truth. Students have the right and need to learn about healthy eating and have access to that. 

Going forward, Meram wants to increase the growth in the University of Waterloo’s Meal Exchange Chapter. With plans on promoting and marketing Meal Exchange, Meram wants to spread the word of this organization and its goals. 

 Visit www.mealexchange.ca to learn how you can support Meram and make a difference in your own school and community. With your help, food insecurity can be on its way to becoming history.  

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Help us build the Canadian student food movement!

Meal Exchange is looking for a project coordinator for our new bold program, the Campus Food Report Card!

 Job Posting: Campus Food Report Card: Program Coordinator 

Job Classification: 17 month contract ending January 2018, 37.5 hrs/week

Deadline for application: Applications accepted on a rolling basis until September 16th, 2016

Start Date: ASAP

 Salary: Commensurate with experience

Location: Meal Exchange National Office, Toronto, Ontario

 

About Meal Exchange

Meal Exchange empowers young people to take an active role in creating a just and sustainable food system. A national registered charity founded in 1993, we work with over 40 universities and colleges in Canada and our programs have been run in over 100 communities across the country. For more than 20 years, Meal Exchange has been supporting students to develop innovative solutions to increase food security and sustainability on their campuses and in their communities.

 

The Opportunity

At Meal Exchange, we believe that post-secondary campuses are an ideal leverage point for tackling food security and sustainability in Canada, and that student leaders have the power to drive this change. We provide these students with mentorship and resources, and connect them with their peers and stakeholders across the country.

 

The students we support are achieving landmark changes in campus contracts, policies, and culture, and Ontario is currently home to some of the campuses leading the serving and promotion of good food in Canada. However, there is still much more work to build a resilient agriculture and agri-food system in our province that all students can eat from, and it will take all colleges and universities working together to create a new normal for campus dining.

To get there, we need to coordinate student demand across the province. Meal Exchange is developing a Campus Food Report Card to mobilize students around, giving them an opportunity to rank the leadership of their campuses for the quality and accessibility of food served. Our goal: celebrate the campuses that are leaders in making good food available to all. We’re looking for the right person to come in and lead this groundbreaking project!

 

The Position

The Campus Food Report Card Coordinator will:

1) Develop criteria for a province-wide ranking for campuses’ availability and promotion of good food, working with students and stakeholders from across the province

2) Measure student satisfaction with campuses accessibility and promotion of good food, through a cross-campus survey, hosting events and promoting through social media and campus media

3)  Produce feature media stories highlighting Ontario campus leaders for providing good food to all students

4) Promote province-wide ranking, student survey results, and feature stories through print and social media, as well as through webinar and conference presentations

5) Support campuses to understand their Report Card rankings and student satisfaction results, and develop action plans to respond

 

6) Supporting Meal Exchange activities over the course of the year including events, communications and administrative tasks

 

The Candidate

You’re a builder and a mobilizer. You believe in the potential of the student movement, and that you can build a project that will serve as a rallying point for this movement. You have as much ambition as pragmatism, and are as creative as you are strategic.

You’re a strong communicator who is excited to help students tell their story − and tell it again and again again − to develop relationships with the stakeholders, partners and funders that we need to scale our impact.

You focus on experience and impact. You know that how we feel working to create change is essential to our ability to achieve it. You’re genuine, and you look for the culture of the teams you work with to be too. You value play, celebration, openness and vulnerability.

You’re ready to work with everyone who’s got a stake in this movement, including stakeholders from across campus, corporate, and communities.

Knowledge, skills and abilities:

Required Skills:

  • Post-secondary education, or combination of relevant education and experience

  • Experience in team leadership, as well as the development and evaluation of networks

  • Experience or demonstrated interest for developing leadership with youth ages 18-30.

  • Proven ability and enthusiasm to take initiative and engage in active learning.

  • Excellent communication skills, including interpersonal, written, and public speaking situations, as well as meeting facilitation and coordination.

  • Hands-on and collaborative approach to problem solving and proven ability develop creative but practical solutions to difficult challenges.

  • Proven ability to lead and manage both large and small scale projects with limited resources.

  • Applied skill and proficiency with MS Office and web-applications for research, project management and publication purposes. Experience with website development is an asset

  • Excellent attention to detail and ability to multitask, able to work both independently and as part of a team in a fast-paced environment.

 Preferred Skills

  • Experience developing and evaluating programs, including designing and implementing new practices or methodologies.

  • Strong understanding of project/program management techniques and methodologies

  • Knowledge of food insecurity and sustainable food systems in Canada.

  • Experience with campus organizing and student movements.

  • Successful experience fundraising, including grant-writing and reporting.

 

Location: Based out of downtown Toronto, with travel throughout Ontario.

 

Application process

We are considering applications on a rolling basis. Only candidates chosen for an interview will be contacted. Please indicate your expected salary range in your cover letter. 

Meal Exchange is committed to employment equity initiatives, and to having a team that reflects the diversity of the issues and communities we work with. We welcome the wide range of experiences and viewpoints that applicants may bring, including those based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, ability, age and religion. We welcome both lived and academic experience, and encourage applicants to note this in their application. In our inclusive workplace everyone is assured the right of equitable, fair, and respectful treatment.

 

Applications should be sent as a single attachment (combining resume and cover letter) to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . If you have any questions about the application process, please direct them to the same address.

 

For more information about Meal Exchange visit www.mealexchange.com.

 

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Companion Planting

by Celia White 

  As a life-long gardener and life-long learner, I try to learn something new about gardening every year.  This year: companion planting!  Companion planting is when you plant varieties near to each other that provide some sort of mutual benefit.  I’ve taken most of my inspiration from the amazing resource, Carrots Love Tomatoes, by Louise Riotte.  

 Step 1: pick your favourite plant! I started with tomatoes. 
 Step 2: Research! You can do an online search, ask a mentor or  flip through a book to find great companion plants. I learned that  tomatoes don’t like any brassicas (cabbage varieties, such  as  broccoli or  kale), and they protect asparagus against the asparagus  beetle.  Garlic also  protects  tomatoes from red spider mites.  And, as the book title suggests, carrots love tomatoes.  
 Step 3: experiment in your garden!  I’m a bit of a zealous  person, so I planted garlic, tomatoes, carrots and asparagus in the  same bed, (and I made sure to keep my brassicas in separate  beds).  I cross-referenced each plant to make sure that they all got along comfortably, and I now  have a lovely garden growing outside!  The asparagus may be a little yellow and weary, but the  carrots and tomatoes sure look happy.

 Join the Meal Exchange Team

Meal Exchange is looking for a passionate, motivated and organized student to help coordinate the National Student Food Summit at the University of Waterloo. This exciting position will help to coordinate Canada’s only conference that brings together nearly 100 students from campuses across Canada to reimagine the future of food.

Read the job description here and please send a cover letter and CV to Sarah ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) by May 14th at 5pm.

 

 

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. 

 

 

 

 

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Callout for Student Applications for Real Food Challenge Research and Coordination Teams:

Meal Exchange is launching the Real Food Challenge in Canada, and we are recruiting students of excellence in British Columbia to join our inaugural team for the pilot phase.  

We encourage students to apply in groups of 2-5, but welcome individual applications for students serious about this project.  

There are two opportunities to join the pilot phase:

  • Cohort 1: Applications due January 4th

  • Cohort 2: Applications due early spring - contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information

 

About the Project

The project is a partnership between Meal Exchange and Real Food Challenge U.S. that aims to shift $1 Billion of campus food purchasing to meet high standards in social justice, animal welfare, environmental sustainability and community relationships.

Students selected for this research position will receive:

  • The opportunity to be part of the first cohort of students to launch the award-winning Real Food Challenge in Canada

  • Resources for every step of the way, including detailed toolkits, examples from leaders  in the United States, webinars, and templates

  • One-on-one coaching, troubleshooting, and site-visits from the Real Food Challenge B.C. Coordinator, who will work directly with you and the stakeholders on your campus to help you meet your project goals

  • Connections to leaders of the food movement including nonprofit and business leaders, funders, researchers, and a network of peer student coordinators across Canada and the United States - meetings will be in-person, by videoconference, and at events and conferences

  • The opportunity to get course-credit for your work and present at conferences

  • Coaching and troubleshooting to access financial support (if available) from your university

 

About the Project Partners

Meal Exchange and Real Food Challenge U.S. use applied research, student engagement, and campus-community partnerships as ways to bring together all the different actors who need to be involved in changing how food is purchased, prepared, eaten, studied, and thought about. Our work is based on building relationships between uncommon allies, bridging organizational cultures and politics, and finding breakthrough solutions to some of our food systems’ toughest challenges. We’re looking for students who are strong leaders and are excited about the opportunity of joining an international network to transform food purchasing on their campuses.

 

About the Opportunity

Real Food Challenge Research and Coordination Teams must be:

  • Currently enrolled in an Undergraduate, Masters, or PhD program at a post-secondary institution in British Columbia

  • Familiar with how change happens on campus and well connected to faculty, administrators, and staff

  • Knowledgeable or seriously interested in food system issues

  • Excited about working with various stakeholders from the chef to the cafeteria manager, from students to professors to administrators, and from community organizations to international businesses

  • A good communicator and facilitator - you don’t need to have the loudest voice in the room, but you do need to know how to explain ideas to different audiences, and be comfortable leading meetings and building trusting relationships

  • Confident in uncertain and complex situations; you are comfortable when you don't have all the answers, and you are passionate about instilling positive change, and challenging your own perspectives, and those of others

  • Solutions focused - you are dedicated and creative in finding ways to reach the best results for everyone at the table

  • Capable of research that requires organization of many spreadsheets, tracking of many numbers, and consultation with many stakeholders

  • Available and able to commit for the duration of a semester, 10-20 hours/week per campus team

 

Successful applicants will:

  • Collaborate with groups on campus, such as Meal Exchange Chapters, Campus Food Banks, Fair Trade Steering Committees, Sustainability Offices, etc.

  • Use the Real Food Calculator to analyze your campuses’ food purchases

  • Determine what percentage of your campuses’ food purchases qualify as Real Food, and identify opportunities for improvement

  • Host educational events on campus to promote the Real Food Challenge and its impact on food and water systems

  • Attend Real Food Challenge webinars and networking events hosted by Meal Exchange

  • Report findings, and disseminate lessons-learned to networks across B.C. and Canada

  • Design a strategy to get formal commitment from your campus president to commit to shifting 20% of campus food purchasing to Real Food by 2020


Meal Exchange is committed to having a team that reflects the diversity of the issues and communities we work with. We welcome the wide range of experiences and viewpoints that researchers may bring, including those based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, ability, age and religion. We welcome both lived and academic experience, and encourage applicants to note this in their application. In our inclusive workplace everyone is assured the right of equitable, fair, and respectful treatment.

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Indeed, this problem can seem overwhelming. But positive changes that no one could have predicted have happened throughout our history, and they were often a result of a relatively small group of people getting together and pressuring decision-makers to end a bad or unjust practice and implement a better or more just way of doing things. A few examples among many include: the end of slavery, women’s right to vote, universal health care, old age security, voting rights for racialized people, the minimum wage, environmental protections, etc.

 

Another great, local and recent example: Quebec has the lowest tuition fees in the country since the students and students unions will not allow the government to force students to pay more. When the provincial government tried to raise tuition fees by 75% in 2012, the students held some of the largest demonstrations in Canada’s history, and eventually the government was voted out of office in large part due to this movement. The students have successfully defended the affordability of education.

 

Beyond Campus Food Banks arises out of students saying “enough is enough: we will not accept that any students are living poverty in order to get an education”. And polls show that the people are already with us:  77% oppose any rise in tuition fees (Canadian Federation of Students, 2014), 72% of Ontarians support a rise in minimum wages to at least $14/hours (CTV Poll cited in Workers’ Action Centre, 2013), 71% support increased federal investment in affordable and social housing (Federation of Canadian Municipalities cited in The Toronto Star, 2013), etc. We’ve got a real shot to bring this issue to light, shift the way people think about it and change the conditions that are causing so much misery and desperation for our colleagues, neighbours and friends.

 

Read more about Beyond Campus Food Banks and Join us!

 

Read the rest of the top 10 Myths About Student Poverty

 

Good academic jobs on our college and university campuses are crucial to ensure high quality education. And, the proportion of university budgets that are spent on professor salaries has actually declined steadily in the last 30 years (Canadian Association of University Teachers, 2015).

 

The main reason tuition fees have risen is reduced government funding, especially from the federal government which has fallen by 50% since 1992 (Canadian Association of University Teachers, 2015). However, while many universities have been forced to do more with less as public funding dries up, it is fair to question university budgeting priorities. Many groups have pointed out that administrative costs and salaries have increased as students are bearing more and more of the cost of their education.


Also, while many professors do have good jobs, a growing number are contract faculty who are working in precarious, part-time positions with relatively low pay and no job security. Like many students, these workers are often also facing challenges supporting their family and making ends meet.

Read the rest of the top 10 Myths About Student Poverty

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Some governments are taking in less than they spend, and as a result campuses are given less funds and thus resort to making students pay the difference and eroding the quality of education. Federal government funding for education has declined by 50% since  1992 (Canadian Association of University Teachers, 2015), at the same time that taxes on corporations and wealthy Canadians have declined and their profits have soared. Canada has not seen these levels of inequality since the 1930s (Statistics Canada cited in The Toronto Star, 2013).


Canada is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. The government has the right to redistribute wealth in order to solve social problems. We should not force students to suffer poverty and malnutrition to get an education in a country as rich as ours. It is bad for students, and bad for society as a whole.

Read the rest of the 10 Myths About Student Poverty

If students don’t have enough to eat then how can they succeed? It is within the interest of the public good, and a campus’ success rates to ensure that all students have access to food that will allow students to survive and thrive.


Both food and education are human rights that Canada endorsed when they signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Canada has a legal and social responsibility to uphold these laws and fulfill the right of people in Canada to have access to food and education.

Read the rest of the 10 Myths About Student Poverty