Kaizen Consultants were confronted with a host of complaints about campus food at UTMSU’s Food Open House last Thursday.
David Purcell and Edward Moreno, consultants working for Kaizen Foodservice Planning and Design Inc., presided at the town hall, which was the first of four open houses planned for the term.
“I’m absolutely thrilled about the turnout,” Moreno said. “There will be several sessions that we’re going to have. We want to hear the students. We want to get multiple voices. We want people to share their thoughts.”
Purcell and Moreno are currently in the process of drawing input on campus food service as part of a review being performed by Hospitality and Retail Services at UTM. The input will eventually be presented to the Food Services Advisory Committee.
At Thursday’s open house, students expressed their dissatisfaction with campus food services. Most complaints were related to the high prices, with an emphasis on the view that the quality of the food is not worth the price.
“If you’re going to charge me this price, give me something that at least looks confident,” said a student who attended the event.
Other concerns included healthiness, the lack of vegetarian options, the lack of information on ingredients, and limited operating hours.
UTMSU president Hassan Havili commented that some classes run until 9 p.m. and that several vendors end at that time or earlier.
On Fridays in particular, many food options are closed early in the afternoon.
Most of the students also said that campus food was lacking in variety, especially during exams when they don’t find many places to choose from.
The consultants said that in price comparisons between U of T, U of Ottawa, Brock, and other universities in Ontario, UTM’s prices were either at or below the others’ prices.
In response, students complained that their tuition fees are already high, the quality of the food is worse, and that they are already in debt.
Students also argued that the food at other campuses looks fresher and “more edible”, and that the problem is the ratio of quality to price.
UTMSU VP equity Melissa Theodore suggested some solutions. She asked to have an option for a $5 meal every day through combos everywhere on campus. Theodore also recommended that the Pizza Pizzas on campus accept vouchers.
She also asked to have more information about ingredients and food sources.
Other students suggested the university have several food providers rather than just Chartwells.
In addition to the open houses, the consultants will be conducting online surveys and hosting focus groups.
“We will be summarizing all the open houses, we will be summarizing customer surveys, then we’ll coordinate with the university executives […] so we will be discussing how this gets posted and gets communicated back out to the student body,” Moreno said.
The consultations are occurring in the context of an impending contract expiry for Chartwells, UTM’s current food service provider. The university’s contract with Chartwells was set to expire last April, but was extended for a year.
Ebi Agbeyegbe, UTMSU VP external, said that future open houses will not be hosted by UTMSU but by the university.
The next open house is scheduled for Wednesday, October 8 in the Meeting Place.