Midnight Kitchen: Students discuss social justice issues over vegan breakfast

Midnight Kitchen (MK), a non-profit, worker and volunteer-run collective, hosted a pancake breakfast on Jan. 12 to raise funds for Solidarity Across Borders, a Montreal-based activist organization. As a migrant justice network, Solidarity Across Borders aims to establish a community which supports individuals and families facing issues with Canada’s immigration and refugee system. In supporting Solidarity Across Borders’ cause, all proceeds from MK’s fundraiser went to the organization’s Mutual Aid Fund.

As students lined up in the Madeleine Parent Room in the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) building for pancakes and coffee, volunteers grooved to uplifting music and the room buzzed  with a strong sense of community. But the event was more than just a way for students to get together and enjoy warm vegan food. To Nat Alexander, an MK event coordinator, the fundraiser had much greater significance for Montreal.

“[Solidarity Across Borders] mostly works with people who don’t have […] employment, [a Social Insurance] number, [or] healthcare,” Alexander said. “They face extra barriers and as part of the McGill Community, a community which has so many resources to offer […] if we can help people who are in that in-between stage and who are not getting government support then it’s really a great thing. If everybody contributes a quarter or a dollar […] every little bit counts […] then we can help somebody get healthcare support for their child.”

MK frequently hosts events that encourage student engagement with the Montreal community. According to Alexander, the collective strives to teach students about social issues while building a community based on understanding and support.

“One of [MK’s] regular programs [is] ‘Lunch and Learn’ where we will have people from the [social justice] groups we support come in and spread awareness about the issues they represent,” Alexander said. “There is one related to Prison Abolition coming up in a few weeks with the Termite Collective. We also often host fun events or self-care types of events for students.”

In addition to hosting many community events, MK serves bring-your-own-dish style vegan lunches in the McGill community by donation from Monday to Thursday in the SSMU building. Midnight Kitchen offers anyone interested the chance to volunteer—either on site as a server, in the kitchen during daily servings, or behind the scenes as a member. A regular MK volunteer, Caroline Bruce-Robertson, U0 Science, began working after first hearing about the service during Orientation Week in September 2017.  

“If you want to serve regularly or clean up or cook or anything you can go upstairs and they have a whiteboard where you can sign up if you want to go to the same shift any week,” Bruce-Robertson said. “If you have free time one day you can always pop in and ask if they need help with anything.”

Bruce-Robertson describes MK’s atmosphere as welcoming and inclusive; no matter what prior skills a volunteer has in the food service industry, there is always a place for them at MK.

“I actually serve, help cook, and clean-up […] twice a week usually,” Bruce-Robertson said. “I can’t cook to save my life but you can always go help to cut up vegetables and stuff. The serving is fun because you get to see 300 people who are obviously happy because there is food of course.”

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