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By Karen Herland
For nearly a decade, students have been able to get nutritious vegetarian and vegan meals on campus prepared by their peers.
Frustrated by the way campus monopolies dictated food choices, a group of Concordians who loved to cook began preparing meals in a nearby church basement and delivering them to the basement of Reggie’s in the Hall Building for distribution to hungry students.
The People’s Potato has evolved into a grassroots collective that serves meals on a donation basis to 500 students every day on the seventh floor of the Hall Building.
Laura C. Roberts, who is working on her MA in History, became a volunteer three years ago. “I was attracted by what they stand for. They offer free food for everyone, regardless of religious or cultural dietary restrictions. And I appreciate the spirit of their collective dynamic.”
Since last year, Roberts has been one of 13 paid staff who run the project. Staff manage the budget, which starts with a $3-per-student membership fee. (Students can choose to opt out.) Each week, meal service garners up to another $300 in donations. All staff operate on an equal pay/equal say basis.
Staff are responsible for sourcing food for the daily meal. Donations come through Moisson Montreal and organic ingredients are purchased from Bianca International Organic and Coop d’Alentour. Ingredients also come from the Jean-Talon Market and are grown in a garden they maintain at Loyola.
The collective is available to offer solidarity servings for grassroots organizations that want to offer food at special events. But the focus of their efforts in the Hall Building lunch.
Paid staff act as chefs and coordinate the menus. “We are all pretty inventive and come up with recipes based on what is in the fridge.” Each chef coordinates the chopping, prepping and serving efforts of between 10 and 20 volunteers who show up each day for the 12:30 to 2 p.m. meal. From preparation to returning the last dish, each lunch takes from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“It’s an open house for volunteers,” Roberts explained. Anyone can pitch in to chop, serve or clean up. Currently, about 80 volunteers are involved.
In addition to the daily meal, a street serving is held up to three times a week. Volunteers distribute sandwiches and hot food in cold weather to homeless people by touring a few haunts around the Sir George campus. Any leftover food is dropped off at a local organization.
The People’s Potato offers workshops and information sessions. Subjects range from Cooking 101 to make-your-own spice blends, sustainable farming and migrant workers. They have also produced a cookbook. For more: peoplespotato.blogspot.com/