Our next goal was to build institutional partnerships and create frameworks to support students through healthy food.
What We've Done in Year 2
We discovered, from our programming experiments in Year 1, that institutional collaboration is important – students feel connected to their school and are more receptive to programming when their school is part of the delivery team. For our second year, we established strategic partnerships with college and university campus stakeholders and local food suppliers to help students not only access healthy food, but also develop food literacy and build social connections through food.
Jennifer is a professor teaching Food Studies Research Methods at George Brown College, a researcher trying to find innovative ways to change campus food culture, and the founder of the Communal Lunch Project. She is interested in the social function of food and the power of people cooking and eating together.
Joshna is a chef, author & activist who cares a lot about people’s relationship with food. She works to rebuild food systems in public institutions putting hospitality and sustainability as a top priority.
Favourite Kitchen Tool/Gadget:
My well-seasoned cast iron pan!
Amber is a Gender and Women’s Studies student at Lakehead University. She is passionate about the topic of food security in relation to diet culture and looking at how suggested diet practices are not always sustainable or accessible.
Favourite kitchen tool/gadget:
The Loaded Ladle
A student-run, non-hierarchical food security collective which serves Dalhousie students as well as the larger community. They provide locally-sourced free hot meals, as well as provide solidarity to other non-profit groups through volunteering, food preparation and/or kitchen space. They also offer free programming to the community such as food-skill workshops, teach-ins, discussions on food justice, and their “To the Root” conference. Check out their website & Instagram for more information.
Dalhousie Student Union Sustainability Office
Formed in 2007 due to demand from students, the DSU Sustainability Office has played an increasingly important role in improving, instilling, and fostering sustainable operations and vision within the Union and beyond. Through education, impact programs, and community organizing, they strive to do their part in creating a sustainable future and empower those who want to make a difference. Check out their website & Instagram for more information.
University of Regina Students' Union (URSU)
URSU’s mission is to provide students opportunities to lead and be heard. Their services and programs contribute to a safe, healthy, and fulfilling university experience. To alleviate stressors associated with food insecurity on campus, URSU offers various food-related services to their students, and it’s through these services, that they strive to create a more resilient academic community. Check out their website & Instagram for more information.
Lakehead University Student Union (LUSU)
LUSU is a democratic, non-profit, student-driven organization providing all Lakehead students with the service, support, and advocacy they need to succeed. Check their website & Instagram for more information.
George Brown College Student Life
By hosting events, activities, and opportunities which promote learning, growth, and connection, the Student Life team at George Brown is dedicated to supporting the success of all students by providing opportunities for them to connect with campus life outside of the classroom. Check out their website & Instagram for more information.
We connected our campus partners with local food suppliers to create a caring local economy where all benefit: students have access to affordable, locally grown food, and the farmers build a broader local consumer base.
Reach Regina — Regina
Wolfville Farmers Market — Halifax
Dalhousie student union farmers market — Halifax
superior seasons — Thunder Bay
100km foods — Toronto
Recipes Cooked with Students
Local Food Boxes Distributed
Take a look at our Year 2 events and workshops that helped university and college administrations across Canada support their students through food.
We presented our early research findings at two conferences. At the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services conference, we presented with three of our student Project Assistants. Our audience appreciated the inclusion of student voices and learned how their involvement was essential in developing relevant programming to support students’ immediate needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
July – August 2021
In partnership with the residence life teams at Seneca and George Brown, we developed a 4-week workshop series, focused on working with one group of students who attended weekly sessions to develop their food skills but also develop deeper food knowledge with Ontario’s delicious harvest and through the following themes: Seasonal & Local Food; Local Food is Indigenous Food; Eating Well on a Student Budget, Making Global Recipes with Local Ingredients. These themes became the foundation for our fall and winter cook-along series. A student shared this photo of what he cooked in the first session – beautiful presentation!
For the GBC Mental Health Conference, Mental Health & Food: Understanding the Connection, we presented our research findings on the mental health benefits of not only having access to healthy food, but also engaging with others to learn how to cook delicious meals that nourish body and mind. Check out the recording to listen to experts discuss the critical connection between the food we eat and our mental health.
September – February 2022
In partnership with the student unions at Dalhousie, Lakehead, and U of Regina as well as Student Life at GBC, and in collaboration with local food suppliers, Wolfville Farmers Market, DSU Market, Superior Seasons, REACH Regina and 100km Foods, we developed a monthly series that provided students with access to a free local food box and a cook-along where they learned to cook 2-3 dishes on a Zoom call with Joshna Maharaj. And in November, we experimented with a hybrid cook-along with Dalhousie students, where half of the students joined us on Zoom, while the other half cooked in-person at the Loaded Ladle Kitchen – it was the first in-person cook-along of the project and students loved it!
Chef Bashir Munye is passionate about promoting the diverse food that represents Toronto’s multicultural communities, and he advocates for access to good quality food for everyone. This workshop focused on the experience of migration and finding a sense of belonging in food and cooking. He expanded on his nomadic cooking philosophy, suggesting that when we “migrate, move, and adapt…, we do it in a way that makes us feel at home.” Chef Bashir led an engaging conversation around food and identity while he cooked a meal in his home kitchen, demonstrating how to use ingredients to “compose a plate, so you can see yourself in that plate”, making this an educational, inspirational, and therapeutic session for all.
This was our first student group collaboration, and it was a huge success. We worked with the Sustainability Squad student leaders, Kas and Georgy, who hosted an IG Live session to help their student members prepare for the cook-along. The next day, students cooked on a Zoom call with Joshna and engaged in a lively chat about eating and cooking sustainably. Check out their website and Instagram for more information.
One student participant, who was initially reluctant to register for the cook-along because she doesn’t cook had this to say:
“I had my first cook-along and it was an amazing learning experience. I never knew sweet potatoes could bring out their taste in spices. Thanks to our chef for adding another option to my snack list.”
We ended our second year of research with a nationwide “Soup, Salad, Solidarity” Cook-along! This culminating cook-along was an opportunity for post-secondary students across Canada to get together in Joshna Maharaj’s kitchen (virtually, of course!), cook a simple meal, and add their voices to a short survey about building a better campus food culture. Students from our partner campuses were provided with local food boxes, while students who joined from any other campus bought their own ingredients. The list of ingredients was simple and affordable to make the dishes as accessible as possible. And a shout-out to Concordia Food Coalition! When they found out about this event, they contacted us to let us know that they would provide local food boxes to remove barriers for any Concordia students who wanted to join.
This final cook-along also provided an opportunity to start a conversation with students about what a better food culture means to them. This included an IG Live conversation and a blog post that built on the conversations we’ve had with students over the past two years.
The Virtual Cook-Along has been a source of inspiration for me. I am motivated to improve my knowledge about food and healthy cooking. I have learned very useful cooking tips, and I am very grateful to the organizers and the chef. I really like the fact that the chef spends time explaining and showing cooking techniques. The Cook-Along is also a time for me to relax after a hard time studying and working and I look forward to joining future events. I will miss it when I graduate. Thank you so much for such a wonderful project.
— Student Participant, 2021-2022
The Communal Lunch Project has been able to create spaces for post-secondary students to learn about and connect through food because of the contribution and support from the following individuals and organizations this year.
Lakehead Student Union and Superior Seasons (Thunder Bay)
University of Regina Student Union and REACH (Regina)
Dalhousie Student Union, the Loaded Ladle, DSU Market, and Wolfville Farmers Market (Halifax)
George Brown College Student Life and 100km Foods (Toronto)
Chef Bashir Munye