Sustainability News from your Student Union
By Charlotte McEwen, Sustainability Coordination
This semester, low-cost cooking classes were offered on campus at the brand-new Nanabijou Childcare Centre kitchen. This class series was the result of a collaboration led by the LUSU Sustainability Initiative in partnership with the LUSU Food Bank, the LUSU Aboriginal Awareness Centre, LUSU Pride, the LUSU Gender Equity Centre, Nanabijou Childcare Centre, Student Health and Counselling, Lakehead International, and the offices of the LUSU President, VP Finance, and VP Advocacy.
In February & March, a total of 12 classes were offered. Rhonda Bill of A Fine Fit Catering, led classes on Monday evenings, and Kitty Pawlak, a local nutritional therapist, taught vegan/vegetarian classes on Wednesday nights. The class series was launched with a campus feast at the end of January, hosted by the LUSU Food Bank in the Outpost. Students were invited to sign up for classes at the LUSU main office through posters, Facebook events, class talks, mass emails, and word-of-mouth communication.
Initially, classes cost $25-$30 per person, so the partnering sponsors donated funding to subsidize the classes to a reduced cost of $15 per person. However, after receiving feedback from students that $15 was still a barrier to participation, further funding was secured in order to make the classes free for students. Our thanks go out to the partnering sponsors who worked together to make these classes accessible and affordable.
Classes were focused on teaching food preparation skills, including food safety, new recipes, techniques to increase the nutritional content of meals, and ways to save money in the kitchen. A vast variety of classes were developed, from vegan pizza night to gourmet asparagus-stuffed chicken, to homemade samosas and bruschetta. Free childcare was also offered through the Nanabijou childcare centre, for students who are busy parents.
The cooking class series was inspired by many years of student requests for cooking skill classes on campus, and the increasing awareness of food insecurity on campus. This partnership was facilitated by the Lakehead Food Security Committee. The Lakehead Food Security Committee was developed in winter 2017 as a response to Meal Exchange’s Hunger Report which determined that Lakehead University was the most food insecure campus in Canada. The committee is led by co-chairs from University administration and the LUSU executive, and includes faculty representatives from Lakehead International, Aboriginal Culture & Support Services, Financial Aid, Residence & Conference Services, Student Health & Counselling, the LUSU Food Bank, LUSU Sustainability, and student representatives.
If you are passionate about food security and interested in getting involved with the movement on campus, many opportunities for student leadership are available. Meal Exchange, a national organization that works to address food insecurity on campuses across Canada, will be active on campus over the next two years working on a project called “Students Feeding Change,” which will develop new solutions to hunger on campus. Beyond volunteering opportunities, their website, www.mealexchange.com, has a job posting open for a Students Feeding Change Coordinator in Thunder Bay. Student volunteers can also get involved with the LUSU Food Bank to keep the centre open and lead food drives. Recently, volunteers with the Faculty Food Drive on campus gathered more than six thousand dollars of food to restock the food bank shelves, and every fall the Trick or Eat Food Drive involves more than a hundred passionate and energetic volunteers. Beyond Meal Exchange and LUSU Food Bank, the Food Security Research Network (FSRN) campus community garden is now open for registration. Plots can be rented for $30/season, and more information can be found on their website: http://fsrn.ca/ Finally, if you’re looking for on-campus food security research opportunities, faculty such as Dr. Charles Levkoe, Dr. Barbara Parker and Dr. Kristen Burnett are leading projects on campus.