Choosing between that watered-down iced coffee or half-filled bag of chips? Eating an overcooked burger or stale french fries? These are the choices McGillians face on a daily basis. With rapidly increasing food prices, and various locations on and around campus offering low-quality meals, it is safe to say that McGill and its students are suffering a food crisis.
From first-hand experience I have witnessed the outrageous price-gouging McGill’s dining centres have participated in. For instance, I was at the RedPath Cafeteria just last week, and was shocked to learn that an iced coffee and a bag of chips amounted to $13.75 — prices you would expect to find in an already over-priced five-star hotel or luxury space. As a student living on a budget — like almost every other student across campus — we are being forced to make the choice between eating or preserving what’s left of our quickly draining bank accounts.
What’s truly disconcerting is how McGill Student Housing and Hospitality Services (SHHS) is aware of the dire situation, yet they have shown no remorse, nor taken any initiative to halt the rising food prices. Instead, they participate in ‘food influencing,’ by formally suggesting what students should and should not eat. As stated on their website, certain meals including grilled items, sushi, healthy wraps, and sandwiches “can add up if eaten on a regular basis. Don’t make these a part of your regular rotation unless you plan on topping up your Meal Plan during the semester.” Not only is it clear that the SHHS is conscious of the fact that students will need to make sacrificial budgets, but they are also simultaneously influencing students’ diets. Their statement neglects students’ nutritional and dietary preferences, suggesting that healthy options should not be part of a daily diet due to price.
According to the CBC, McGill has upwards of a two hundred percent markup on all meal products, demonstrating the disparity between what the prices of food should actually be in relation to inflation.
While both McGill and the SHHS are blaming inflation for their appalling food pricing, their prices far exceed those of nearby food dispensaries. Provigo — a staple for any McGillian living in Milton-Parc — has indeed also been raising prices, and according to CTV News, has seen a rise in corporate profits; however, these inflated prices are viewed as ‘reasonable’ when compared to McGill. According to the CBC, McGill has upwards of a two hundred percent markup on all meal products, demonstrating the disparity between what the prices of food should actually be in relation to inflation.
To tackle this issue, the SHHS stated to the CBC that they have plans to shift towards an all-you-care-to-eat (AYCTE) meal plan. While a detailed outline of the new plan has yet to be released, we can assume that it will involve a one-time entry payment that will grant access to some sort of buffet-style eating venue. While in practice this seems like a financially sustainable way to approach McGill’s meal plan in the long term, based on the results of McGill’s popular off-campus residence, Campus1, where the only dining option is an all-you-care-to-eat style, inadequacies will follow.
Common consequences of all-you-care-to-eat meal plans often include only one hot main meal option, and repeating cold food items with little to no variety. Further, the parent corporation of Campus1, Chartwell, has to order food in bulk to keep up with AYCTE buffets, resulting in severe quality assurance issues/problems (anyone who has eaten at Campus1 knows about their famously chewy, stale fries). Those with dietary restrictions, however, will suffer the most in the wake of the new AYCTE meal plan. Being a resident of Campus1 myself, and a sufferer of a severe nut allergy, I find myself often sticking to the day-old pizza slices they serve up. Since Campus1 exclusively offers an all-you-care-to-eat buffet, options that may have come into contact with nuts, or where ingredients are unknown, become inedible for me.
McGill treats their dining facilities like a corporation, placing profits over health and access to high quality food.
The issue with dining facilities that provide all-you-care-to-eat services is that they provide little accommodation for those with dietary restrictions, depriving people suffering from food allergies of a full meal. While this is a health hazard, it also goes to show that McGill’s AYCTE meal plan will continue to be financially unsuitable, as those paying to eat at the all-you-care-to-eat buffet will oftentimes be unable to take advantage of all the food items on offer, leading to a further waste of student money.
McGill and the SHHS have a responsibility to keep their students financially stable and healthy. Rather than ensuring everybody has equal access to food items — regardless of their financial status or dietary needs — McGill treats their dining facilities like a corporation, placing profits over health and access to high quality food. While the AYCTE meal plan seems like a fix, examples including Campus1 have shown us this plan is sure to fail. Rather than overhauling an entire meal system to hide their price-gouging, McGill must reform, reshape, and rethink how it goes about pricing food, and making affordable, healthy, quality food a priority for all McGillians.