Most student groups know the struggle of event planning—so much thought and consideration goes into the date, venue, and itinerary. Financial officers and treasurers pore over financial statements to budget for the event. As a club, you want to provide value to the attendees and club members, but you also want to ensure the event is financially feasible.
One of the ways to ensure you attract a large turnout is through free events. While free events tend to attract more students by abating financial concerns for money-conscious students, student groups are often left with the financial burden. Collaborations, sponsorships, and partnerships can alleviate some of the costs student groups accumulate, especially the cost of food.
To lower the cost of food, student groups may use the student centre to host their events and bring more cost-effective food from off-campus. This limits the type of events student groups can have though, since other locations on campus may suit the needs of the event better.
For example, if a student group would like to book the Davis Council Chambers or Spigel Hall, they would need to use Chartwells to cater their event. This is the reality for the rest of the campus. Any venue outside of the Student Centre requires food to be ordered or catered through Chartwells.
Student organizations that host events are familiar with Chartwells. Chartwells is an organization with a monopoly on all the food and beverage on campus—yes, even your peppermint mocha holiday Starbucks drink. Due to an exclusive agreement with UTM, Chartwells forbids outside food and beverages on campus. Sadly, even bottled water is technically forbidden in the classroom.
If student groups want to order food outside of the Student Centre, it must be done through Chartwells.
Although Chartwells catering services carry a variety of food options, from Subway platters to Homemade Meat Lasagne, they lack some cultural foods—no samosas, empanadas, Lo Mein, or Jollof rice. Student groups are able to order from the brand name and franchise companies on campus, such as Tim Hortons, Thai Express, and Pizza Pizza.
Prices for the catering services and brand name companies, unfortunately, add up. For events with fifty people, prices for some of the cheapest things on the menu add up to hundreds of dollars for student groups. Many of the items are charged per person or serving.
According to the Chartwells catering menu, a platter of 15 sandwiches cost $35.70. For student groups opting out of the more affordable options such as pizza or cookies and coffee, sandwiches offer a classy meal for a semi-formal event.
To feed approximately fifty attendees, four platters cost a total of $142.80.
A vessel of water serving 50 costs $9. You could buy six 4-L jugs of water—6 gallons of water ($2 each)—for the same price.
Due to the nature of Chartwells’ contract with UTM, however, student groups are forced to purchase from the company.
I’m not saying the food isn’t good. I had three Subway sandwiches and they were really good. However, student groups are run by students with limited budgets and meager resources.
Not only is it difficult for many student organizations to afford this, but some of the food—particularly the inexpensive ones—do not meet the dietary needs of the students. A Subway platter is relatively low compared to other foods, but for those with gluten intolerance, it is inedible.
Being forced to exclusively use the service of one company affects the quality of club events, especially if student groups want to provide delicious, substantive food. Growling and dissatisfied stomachs don’t make for great reviews.
While Chartwells offers a small discount to student groups, the prices remain unreasonably high considering the exorbitant cost of tuition.
Finances impede students’ ability to host high quality events. Similarly, finances also hinder many university students from receiving the nutrients necessary for comprehension and proper cognitive functions due to the pricey and limitedness of healthy food options on campus.
A monopoly on all campus food underscores how corporations can hinder student potential, and exacerbate food insecurity.
Outside food and catering should be allowed in UTM buildings, so student groups have more budget-friendly options.