“Campus eats” is a three-part series of articles comparing the positive and negative aspects of food services at Ryerson, the University of Toronto and George Brown College. Stay tuned for parts two and three, coming soon at ryersonian.ca.
U of T
The University of Toronto’s food services team oversees more than 30 food locations across the St. George campus, handling meal plans and hosting different food events across campus. Aramark is the main food service provider, but some colleges are managed by Chartwells.
U of T offers a variety of options for meal plan purchases, including a $450 monthly plan (which provides 10 meals per week), a $1,725 semester plan or a $3,400 full-year plan. These meal plans are available only at certain colleges, so another option is to purchase flex dollars, which are accepted across 30 retail locations and dining halls across campus.
How to Pay
U of T students can pay using their student card, also known as a TCard, by purchasing a meal plan. With a minimum load of $250, there are no refunds or cash back once the money is on the card. However, as of fall of this year, the TCard+ program has been introduced as a way for students to be able to pay for merchandise at the bookstore and Varsity Centre, as well as food at multiple cafés and dining halls on campus.
U of T’s food services offer vegan, vegetarian, halal, kosher and local food options to students.
“The dining hall often cooked very ethnic food. There were lots of curries and Asian foods, but also they would have turkey on Thanksgiving and roast beef at Christmas,” said Emma Compeau, fourth-year peace and conflict studies student. “There was an effort to accommodate most cultures.”
The campus has seen an increase in local produce since 2005, when a number of farmers and growers partnered with food services. As of 2008, over 10 dining halls were serving locally produced foods, and in 2011, food services spent 22 per cent of its operating budget on local foods.
“I really credit the University of Toronto for sourcing as many fruits and vegetables locally as possible,” said Malik Chabou, former geography student at U of T. “I have no doubt it’s fresh.”
Many U of T students interviewed for this story say that too much junk food is offered on campus.
“I tried to stick to the salad and sandwich bar,” said Chabou. “But I was amazed by the selection of junk-ish food. While our residence meal plan tried to be diverse in cultural offerings and dietary restrictions, public eats on campus rarely varied their menu.”
Variation and quality are also a concern with students living across campus.
“The cafeteria had a set food schedule, so once a week we would get pizza, once a week we would get pasta, and so on,” said Kristina Johnson, former social sciences student. “I did not think the food was very good overall. A lot of it seemed like packaged, tasteless food.”
“From the two places I could go to, there was variety, but there wasn’t a lot of quality,” agreed Compeau. “The hot meals would be better, on average, but the grab and go stuff was always very heavy with fatty sauces. Most of the food offered at the café was candy bars and other kinds of fast food.”
Director of food services, Jaco Lokker, could not be reached for comment.
U of T food services hosts a variety of environmental and food initiatives such as Veggie Mondays. Students are also eligible to join the Food Advisory Committee alongside faculty and staff to bring recommendations on how to improve food services.