Our Food, Our Community

by julia.hanigsberg | December 21st, 2012

Tis the season to think about food whether or not your traditions involve celebrations at this time of year. Sweets and nibbles are everywhere and it feels like I could spend all day every day at seasonal parties of one sort or another (and I have enjoyed quite a few!).

Food is inherently linked to well-being. At this time of year we think about food traditions that are meaningful in our families. I spent an hour cooking latkes for my family recently as we celebrated Hanukkah with three generations around the table. We also think about those around us who do not enough and encourage a spirit of mindful eating, and giving whether through our own Ryerson United Way campaign or RSU Community Food Room, or through events and causes across the city such as CBC’s Sounds of the Season Campaign. Eating is sustenance, and it is also emotion, economics, sustainability and security.

At Ryerson, food is also education, research, advocacy and collaboration. And over the past two years I have been inspired by the efforts of Rye’s Home Grown Community Garden team members. These tireless urban farmers organize and commit their sweat equity to planting nurturing delicious fresh vegetables in plots scattered all around campus working with the wonderful team at Campus Facilities and Sustainability. Stay tuned for their expansion and exciting plans for spring 2013.

Our faculty also are important leaders in food issues for example through the research of the School of Nutrition and the Centre for Studies in Food Security. The Ryerson Students Union is also very interested in food on campus and has been engaging in a lively dialogue with students and the administration over the course of the fall.

We are a society consumed by, one might even say obsessed by, food. Food and drink are so much more than mere fuel for the body. Their preparation and consumption stimulate nearly all our senses: the sight of a perfectly iced chocolate cake, the aroma of a perfectly seasoned harvest soup, the taste of your mom’s brisket. As well, whether sipping a café au lait solo over your iPad at Balzac’s on Gould Street or together with friends and family at home or in a lively restaurant, the experience of enjoying food can be emotionally uplifting and re-energizing.

Food All Around Us

At Ryerson, we are fortunate to have a plethora of options to savour in our immediate neighbourhood and right here on campus. Take a short stroll over to the Eaton Centre, for instance, and relish all the international and local cuisines on offer at the Urban Eatery. Grab a halal sandwich across the street on Yonge at Paramount. Sit down for a vegetarian chili or some sushi at the Loblaw’s at our own Mattamy Athletic Centre. And I know I’m not the only one that is excited to see Bahn Mi Boys coming to Yonge and Gerrard in the New Year. Salad King continues to be one of the favorite go to spots for the Ryerson community.

On our own campus, there’s a growing range of excellent options, including the Oakham Café run by the Student Campus Centre, Balzac’s Café at the Image Arts Building and, of course, the convenient choices and growing variety Food Services delivers to students in residence and a growing number of kiosks in buildings across campus. The School of Hospitality has also gotten into the act through RU Dining two days a week at the Ted Rogers School of Management, with all the menu and meals prepared by Hospitality students.

Our Foodie Community

As Ryerson continues to evolve I do not want to lose sight of the fact that our community’s food preferences are also likely to transform. Keeping up with the changing food preferences of such a diverse community – including undergraduates who live in residence and commute, students who attend classes only in the evening or on weekends and faculty and staff members from a variety of cultural backgrounds – is a tall order.

While the provision of food is not the core business of a post-secondary institution, it is still something my colleagues and I take seriously. That’s because we believe strongly that having the right mix of on-campus dining options is a critical component of a vibrant, engaged Ryerson community. Simply put, it’s part of Putting People First.

Of course, whatever food services are offered on campus, they need to be financially sustainable, heterogeneous, healthy, convenient, affordable and, we can’t forget, delicious.

Help Us Think it Through

To help ensure we’re on track to meet our community’s expectations for on-campus food choices, in January 2013 we will be asking everyone at Ryerson to participate in a food-preferences survey. The results of this survey will help to determine the details of the future of food at Ryerson.

Between now and January, think about the kinds of food services you would like to see so that you can be ready to share your aspirations with us.

Happy Holidays

Between now and then, I hope you will find time this holiday season to eat, drink and be merry with your friends and families.

Wishing you good health and happiness now and throughout 2013.

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