By: Donna Nadeem
The rising prices of campus food make it increasingly difficult for many students to find a financially sustainable source of nourishment. In an effort to improve food affordability on campus, Ikram Farah, McMaster Student Union president, worked to introduce the pilot project of an initiative called “Tax-free Tuesdays” earlier this month.
Farah is largely focused on increasing food accessibility. Two of her year-plan objectives that centre around this are Farah’s “Tax-Free Tuesdays” plan, which has involved working with McMaster Hospitality Services and working with Bridges Café to offer healthier options at other restaurants on campus.
November will be the pilot month for Farah’s new “Tax-Free Tuesdays” initiative. The project was one of her platform objectives during her presidential campaign and was launched to address the high food costs on campus. Food at La Piazza will be tax-free on each Tuesday of November. Students can access this tax discount by using cash, credit or debit.
On each Tuesday in November, Hospitality Services will lower the sticker price of food items by 13 per cent, equivalent to HST, and the discount will apply to food sold from any of the vendors inside the La Piazza in the McMaster University Student Centre.
“The spirit behind Tax-Free Tuesdays is to address food prices on campus through collaboration with the university,” said Farah.
McMaster University prides itself on prioritizing the needs of students and providing programs and resources that promote physical and mental health.
Nevertheless, the rising prices of campus food call into question this stated goal. Students are finding it increasingly difficult to find a financially sustainable source of food, especially with the climbing prices of healthier options.
East Meets West Bistro and Bridges have never been considered the cheapest place for on-campus dining, but such increases in food prices are making meal plans less attractive from a food security standpoint. Moreover, East Meets West Bistro and Bridges are not included in the “Tax-Free Tuesdays” initiative.
To improve food security, the “food pantry,” along with the food collective centre in Bridges and the anonymous “lockers of love” program, provide an ongoing resource to students who need food the most. The Nolunchmoney initiative team also uses their social media to constantly keep students updated on free food events.
In addition, the MSU operates three specific locations that sell food: TwelveEighty, The Grind and Union Market; all three venues price their food to yield maximum value to the students.
“Food insecurity is real. The MSU invests in the operations of the MSU Food Collective Centre to offer immediate food support to students,” said Farah.
The tax-free Tuesdays pilot program will look at and draw on responses from staff and students and more logistical feedback.
“To me the pilot is not a test of ‘success’ or ‘need.’ To lower costs at all is a success unto itself as there is a need,” said Farah.
On top of juggling academic and extracurricular involvements and struggling with tuition and residence fees, many students worry about not having enough food to eat. According to Farah, the MSU will continue to fulfill its commitment to providing students with affordable food options and advocate for McMaster to do the same.
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