Thanks to a motion passed last Thursday by the Students’ Society Council, McGill vegans may soon have more food options available to them in the Shatner Building.
The motion, put forward by Emil Briones, the representative from the Faculty of Music requires SSMU to encourage its food service tenants to offer more vegan-friendly choices, though it does not mandate tenants to provide vegan options.
“I worded the motion very carefully,” Briones said. “I just wanted action to be [taken] in terms of making sure the vegan food options are visible in the Shatner Building without pressuring food services into doing something that they can’t be forced to do.”
SSMU Vice-President Clubs & Services Sarah Olle echoed Briones’ sentiments.
“We discussed a requirement to mandate our tenants to have at least one vegan food item,” Olle said. “However, we felt that, first of all, it would be too hard for our tenants, and second of all, that wouldn’t actually be as effective as the way the motion is written now.”
Currently, Midnight Kitchen is the only food service in the Shatner Building that offers vegan-friendly meals on a daily basis. The student-run organization is only available during lunch hours, though. With the passage of the motion, current tenants will be encouraged to take steps toward offering vegan options without overhauling their menus.
“This is really a customer-focussed motion,” Olle said. “It shows our tenants that having vegan food options is not really a requirement, but is something they should do for their customers because it is important to them and it will increase their business.”
While preparing the motion, Briones and several other vegan students visited Shatner’s food service tenants to investigate the current options for vegan students, in addition to holding discussions with current councillors and incoming executives. Briones said that he expects next year’s executives to carry out the terms of motion.
“I think the main implication would be if right now [the tenants] may be a little sloppy in how they are preparing something – where it would be almost vegan if they changed one ingredient or one procedure of cooking – they would now be encouraged to change so that an item could get the vegan sticker of approval,” Olle said.
Simin Sattari, the manager of Café Supreme in the Shatner Building, explained that Café Supreme currently offers several vegetarian options, but changing their menu to offer vegan options could be problematic.
“About changing, you’d have to talk to the company,” Sattari said. “We don’t choose the food ourselves. They mandate our recipes. If we’re going to change anything, they’re going to charge us. We have to serve what they offer because we are a franchise. We don’t have the power to change the menu.”
The motion also mandates SSMU to move toward improving the visibility and labelling of vegan food products in the Shatner Building, in addition to taking the vegan issue into consideration when 2011 lease renegotiations with food service tenants.
“Right now in the music cafeteria there are little tags that say ‘This soup is vegan-friendly,'” Briones said. “Little things like that will make a lot of difference because being vegan personally, I don’t feel comfortable eating anywhere in the SSMU building aside from Midnight Kitchen. I don’t know if a knife, say, touched something with meat in it or chicken broth in it. I just want to make sure that vegans are comfortable eating in the SSMU building while Midnight Kitchen is not operating.”
– Additional reporting by Tori Crawford