A decision was made by the administration to invite Aramark to cater the Sustainability and Safety Champions Gala taking place tomorrow afternoon.
As some of you know, the Sustainability and Safety Champions Gala is a yearly event which recognizes students, staff, and faculty who have gone above and beyond their mandate to promote sustainability within our community. In past years, this event has been organized by the Sustainability Hub (an informal collective of representatives from sustainability-minded organizations throughout Concordia).
It is Sustainable Concordia’s role, as advocates for change on campus, to recognize the inherent unsustainability of this decision.
There has been strong opposition to Aramark, and multinational organizations in general, holding a monopoly on food service at Concordia. Concerns have been voiced by the CSU, The Concordia Food Coalition, Sustainable Concordia, and many other grassroots groups for years. All of these groups have had representation at the Sustainability Hub but none seemed to have been consulted about the decision to have Aramark at the Gala. Their concerns about Aramark are deeply rooted in the theories and philosophies of environmental, social, and economic sustainability; ideas which concern us all as participants in Concordia’s food system.
Aramark is the epitome of unsustainability. Privatisation of public services robs our community of proper economic sustainability by taking opportunities away from local food providers. Aramark’s corporate, capitalist structure is undemocratic, provides little to no transparency, and is inaccessible. To add some perspective, Aramark generated more than $14 million in sales in 2015 while forcing students who want to live in residence to pay into a $3,000.00 meal plan. By charging so much, Aramark limits student agency to make food choices outside of the plan. Additionally, they have shown no efforts in becoming meaningfully involved in our community other than to exploit students for profit.
The Gala is intended to be a space where our community celebrates champions of sustainability so, needless to say, Sustainable Concordia feels that the decision to have Aramark cater this event is a major step backwards for sustainability on campus. It is our view that these actions really only contribute to the continued greenwashing of both Concordia University and Aramark, as institutions. Sure, there may be small things that the Aramark team here at Concordia does to incorporate elements of sustainability, and we acknowledge this, but these small efforts address only the symptoms of unsustainable food systems and are far removed from combating the roots of the problem.
Aramark operates all over the world and has a litany of issues under its belt. They are a food provider for prisons which recently experienced hunger strikes. These actions were sparked by food quality issues due to inadequate training of staff. Educational institutions across the country have experienced epidemics of food poisoning for which Aramark has been held responsible. In addition to serving raw hazardous food and having pests found in kitchens, they operate in a culture steeped in a lack of transparency and corporate privilege. We have witnessed this firsthand at Concordia when students were excluded from participating in the university’s recent food contract bidding process due to simple legal and organizational capacities. Of course, we can’t ignore the fact that Aramark also operates in mines and on oil rigs all over the world, further proving the extent of their corporate greed as they exploit any situation possible in order to see large payouts for shareholders.
Until our food system is run by and for those who use it, it will never be truly sustainable. What is sustainable is the system created by students outside of the corporate food culture here on campus. The Hive, Café X, Burritoville, The People’s Potato, The Loyola Free Lunch Program, The Frigo Vert, The Dish Project, along with the working groups of the CFC are all specifically mandated to offer sustainable food choices and work towards transforming the way societies think about food. It is both shocking and disappointing to learn that none of these stakeholders were consulted when making a decision as to who would cater the Gala this year. Our community has so much to offer, why not use the Gala to showcase this?
Sustainable Concordia values the work done at the Sustainability Hub and feels that this space can be used to create real change on campus. We are committed to contributing to an environment of critical thought and passionate action planning in the months and years to come.