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.