A COMMITTEE MADE up of members of Food Services, Housing Service, the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), and more is deliberating on how to improve the U of O’s food services.
“As campus stands right now, Food Services are unable to keep up with demand,” said Patrick Genest, director of Food Services.
The plan is to renovate the first floor of the Jock-Turcot University Centre to accommodate either a dining hall or space for more retail boutiques. According to Genest, the dining hall would cost the U of O between $5–6 million to build. It would cost each student $18 per day but would exist in an all-you-can-eat format.
Accommodating more chain locations would cost the university much less, but would mean higher food prices for students.
One of the propositions if the committee decides to finance a dining hall is to implement a mandatory food plan for all students in residence. The SFUO is unsupportive of such a proposition.
According to its constitution, the student federation “opposes the implementation of all forms of mandatory meal plans with the exception of those that have been democratically mandated by the student population through a duly run referendum as per the SFUO constitution.”
SFUO president Anne-Marie Roy said the university, Food Services, and Chartwells—the private company contracted to run the cafeterias—should pay for renovations, not the students.
“Students should not be subsidizing the cost of the cafeteria renovations, especially without being asked,” she said.
Roy’s perspective is that students pay enough already, and they should not have to pay extra for something that should be provided.
Genest insisted that the mandatory meal plan is “just one of the options being explored” and the primary goal is to meet students’ needs as effectively as possible within the financial restraints.
The committee has done research on meal plan operations at other universities to help with ideas for change. The U of O’s proximity to downtown locations like the Rideau Centre and ByWard Market is a significant factor in making sure food services on campus are worthwhile.
“I’m more likely to go to retail places like Le Bac à Frites or Second Cup,” said Chelsea Harris, a fourth-year communications student.
The committee expects to reach a decision by the end of September and to introduce the new services in the fall of 2014 or early 2015.