I want to reinforce the idea that food matters. The food that you as housing operators provide on campus and the way that our students live their lives in the residences is forming the way that they think for the future. I say this as a grandmother and a former student.
We should be doing more to think about local and sustainable and supporting our Canadian farmers. And I would like to see, for example, that the dessert of choice in my campus during the winter would be carrot cake or apple pie, all of which come from our farmers in Canada.
Now I’ve revealed myself as an Aggie. However, I would like to reinforce the idea that we should be thinking about these matters at the very highest levels because what we do and what our students see modeled in our universities is what they will take away for their aspirations. I say this for themselves, for their families, for the industries and the public enterprises that they run, and for the future of the planet.
We have an opportunity to shape their minds.
Some of you probably have quite negative memories about food on campus. I know I do. I went to University of England.
Universities and colleges are, in fact, the largest purveyors of institutional food in Canada.
Think of who the others institutional purveyors are – prisons, military and hospitals. They are known for fantastic food, right? The military has about 60,000 personnel. Hospitals are about 150,000 beds across the country. Prisons are around 150,000 beds. People in Canadian prisons are getting institutional food in those great purveyors.
How many people do we have in the university arena in Canada? We have approximately one million students, maybe more now in Canada, and close to two million students in colleges across the country. Three million+ people who are captives on our campuses eating the food that we choose to provide them.
We can change how they think about that. Not only can we change it, we can help them make better choices, not just for themselves, but as I say for the future of the planet. I’d like you to remember that eating is what keeps us all alive and you as student housing managers and operators, are also providing all the food.
Remember, carrot cake is a great vintage dessert.
Professor Deborah Buszard is Interim President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of British Columbia.