The Strength of Students

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By Keely Murdock

The Power of People & Our Fight for Change

This was my first time at Meal Exchange’s National Food Summit, or any summit for that matter. One thing I know for sure, is that I’ll be back. This was
truly one of the best investments I've ever made. 70 students from across 30 campuses for three days at the University of Waterloo to work together for change, and it was powerful.

I’m a student at the University of Windsor, going into my last year in my Bachelor’s of Social Work. I feel that food is a good avenue to make a difference in my community. After all, we all gotta eat! Last year, I helped start our first and only Campus Community Kitchen. It taught me the importance of empowerment. I definitely left Summit feeling empowered. Exhausted, but incredibly empowered and inspired.

It was an action packed weekend. Nowhere else would students get up in the morning to speak with and challenge Vice-President of Chartwells, get their hands dirty learning to make palette boxes for a raised garden in the afternoon, eat a delicious, vegetarian meal in the evening and (if they’re not exhausted and ready for bed) spend the rest of the night continuing conversations of the day with new friends into the wee hours of the morning.

Nowhere else would my years of experience making salad dressings for my family, turn into a chance for me to teach others at the community kitchen meal. That meal, which was delicious and completely vegetarian (almost all vegan) plentifully served 70 people on $50!

We got to taste a bit of everything. From learning about innovative Aquaponics systems, hearing about devastating food insecurity issues in Canada, and touring the University of Waterloo’s Food Bank, community garden, and Farmer’s Market, to learning about the underrated importance of Seed Saving and about various initiatives from the Ministry of Agriculture. All the while, we critically analyzed how we do better as individuals, universities, provinces, and as a nation. I am very grateful to have been a part of, and  contributed to this year’s National Food Summit.

Keely’s Q & A: Some of the questions I had before this year’s summit and my personal answers

1. Do others exist that are just as excited about reshaping our food system as I am?

  • Heck yeah, and then some. The 70 students that attended this conference made me feel hopeful that serious change is possible, maybe inevitable. I learned that some of these incredibly talented people go to my school and I got to connect with those two other University of Windsor students who are also working to make a positive impact on our university's food system. We’re going to work together in the future, and that’s pretty great.

2. Am I working hard enough to make a difference?

  • Honestly, not really and I’m no slouch. The incredible people that I met are motivated, committed, intelligent, driven, leading, and working on these amazing projects all over the country. They have driven me to go back and work harder.

3. Would I recommend other students to go?

  • Let’s put it this way: if it were up to me, the summit wouldn’t be one of those recommended textbooks, but a required one. Yes, you should go.

Finally, I want to extend a heartfelt THANK YOU to Meal Exchange. This dream team worked incredibly hard to produce an epic weekend. You all worked extremely long hours and always had smiles on your faces. Your genuine efforts to empower each of the 70 students and get to know each of us, is inspiring. I hope nothing but success for all of us. Cheers!

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Guest Thursday, 23 March 2017