Blog posts tagged in Inspiration

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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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.