BUSAC councillors gathered for the second-last meeting of the year on Mar. 23 for what initially seemed to be a quick meeting. However, a presentation and update from Peter Henen of the Food Affordability for Students Today (FAST) group, initiated a lengthy discussion about the proper ways to try to bring about change on campus in terms of food issues.
Henen briefed the councillors about the history of the group and what they have been up to this year, focusing mainly on the current petition that they are passing around the campus. The goal of the petition is to collect enough signatures to have the current food services provider, Sodexo, exempted from the university. Currently, FAST has collected over 8,000 signatures from students, staff and faculty members at Brock.
“I am here to ask for your support, or at the very least, ask that you hear my voice,” said Henen to the councillors.
Henen also enumerated the variety of people that he has spoken to and claimed that the best possible solution for bringing food affordability to campus is to break the contract with Sodexo immediately. He said that FAST is willing to work with anyone in order to achieve this end to the monopoly on food distribution on campus.
“We’re not just creating an alternative, but getting to the root of the problem,” said Henen.
However, while most councillors applauded Henen’s determination and efforts, they were also critical of some of FAST’s actions as well as doubtful as to the benefits of breaking the contract with Sodexo.
Some concerns that were brought up were the recent flash mob that interrupted the Board of Directors candidates debate during BUSU’s executive elections and cast a negative light on what FAST was trying to achieve, the accuracy of all the 8,000 petition signatures, as well as the Fact Sheet on the back of the petition which includes a couple of inaccuracies.
“If we do support the petition and what [FAST] has done, it’s reputation will be with BUSU,” commented Spencer Dawson, BUSU’s Vice President of Finance and Administration. “Our problem is with your messaging.”
Moreover, some councillors doubted that breaking the contract with only three years remaining, will be financially feasible, considering the potential lawsuit. Neither Henen nor the councillors had any solid idea of how much money breaking a multi-million dollar contract would cost and so the question whether it would be better to break it immediately or wait until it is finished was left unanswered.
While there was a lot of criticism to be heard, councillors agreed that food affordability is a very prevalent problem on campus and one that needs to be addressed.
“This isn’t an issue that will just taper off,” said Kyle Rose, BUSU’s President. “However, we’d just like it to be done in the right way.”
Henen concluded by saying that FAST is organizing a protest for food affordability and getting rid of Sodexo’s monopoly on Mar. 29.
“I have started something, and although it is not complete, I hope that you take it and work with it in any way, shape, or form possible,” added Henen