It’s been about two and a half years since Lou-Anne Daoust-Filiatrault sent an email to McGill Food Systems Project (MFSP) inquiring about an internship position she saw posted on the CaPS website. Within a week she was hired as an intern for a consumer engagement project building a new website. Now Daoust-Filiatrault breathes, sleeps—and of course eats—MFSP as its internal manager.
MFSP is an initiative that utilizes Applied Student Research (ASR) projects to justify or create change in making sustainability an integral part of McGill’s cycle of food—from production to the waste it creates. Projects are undertaken in partnership with the administration and staff.
“We don’t answer to anyone because we don’t fall under the umbrella of any other organization on campus[.…] We’re just a bunch of motivated students that really don’t mind working for free,” she says with a laugh.
At this point in the semester, Daoust-Filiatrault is finishing a greenhouse gas audit of the four main residence cafeterias, and is overseeing the three ASR projects for this Fall. These include one studying the compost from the university’s cafeterias, another on the installation of a furnace in the McGill Outdoors Club house that runs on waste vegetable oil from the cafeterias, and a third re-evaluating the ‘Meatless Monday’ initiative at McGill.
Daoust-Filiatrault strongly advocates for the hands-on approach of applied student research, and how it allows students to learn about and give back to their school.
“It gives students the opportunity to research something in their field and [develop] soft skills that they can’t really get from lecture-style settings,” she says. “I can be as creative as I want and create projects and implement ideas. It gives me a bit of real life experience working with staff and administration, working in a team. It’s been extremely fulfilling to see that sort of meaningful change come from us.”
Through her time with MFSP, Daoust-Filiatrault has helped raise the project to a new level. The project now collaborates with the two other sustainability-focused applied student research initiatives—McGill Energy Project and McGill Waste Project—through the coordination of the three ASR groups.
“It’s cool because now we can propose all these next level projects […] and we can have larger student projects that are interdisciplinary,” she says. “It is streamlining all of our efforts instead of reinventing the wheel.”