Dawn Cheung, U4 English Literature major and East Asian Studies minor, is actively contributing to student life on campus in many ways, including through her management of the popular Facebook page: Free Food on Campus and in Montreal.
Cheung has been living in Montreal since 2007, after moving from Coquitlam, British Columbia with her family upon graduating high school. She lived in and out of the city and went to CEGEP before starting at McGill.
Since September 2014, Cheung has been the president of McGill Students Spoken Word Associated Youth (McSWAY), an outlet for students to express themselves through performance poetry. McSWAY creates a safe space for students to share their thoughts through performance, and provides workshops on spoken word.
“We support people gathering together to share all kinds of poetry—mainly the performance aspect by both dramatizing and having fun with it,” she said.
Cheung’s most popular endeavour, however, used by countless students every day, is the McGill Free Food on Campus and in Montreal group. The Facebook group was created by another McGill student, Margaret Lu, three years ago. Cheung inherited it when Lu graduated, and has been the groups’ administrator for the last two years. It has since grown to more than 10 thousand members.
Cheung’s decision to take responsibility for the group is inspired by both personal reasons and a desire to give back.
“One, I like free food,” Cheung said, “Two, there’s a lot of spamming in the group [that needed regulating].”
It does not take Cheung too much time to regulate, but she does rule with a bit of an iron fist. The group is strictly for free food, and any posts that do not comply are taken down. The rules are clear: First infractions receive a warning; second infractions receive a complete ban. The group also links to other pages that might be a better fit for the content, such as Cheap Food on Campus or Samosa Search.
Although she runs it, Cheung insists that the group is pretty self-maintained.
“The group is run by the people who want free food and I help keep the content aligned with their interest,” Cheung said. “However, if people see a post that brings their hopes up and then they see it is for sale they will ridicule the post in the comments.”
Cheung is also always aiming to improve the group through member feedback. Recently, the group’s name was changed to specify “in Montreal.”
“There’s places off campus as well that [have] really good free food, [like] the free fish and chips in Monkland,” she said.
Cheung will be graduating at the end of this semester, but she is not nervous about finishing up her degree. In fact, she already has experience with convocations. For the past two years, she’s been co-head usher for convocation at McGill.
“I’ve seen people graduate all the time, [I have been there] every single ceremony,” Cheung explained. “I feel okay [about graduating myself], I see it as an extended vacation.”
In January 2016, the responsibility of the group will be passed on again and Cheung is looking for just the right person to hand off the group to.
“I just want to make sure people can find out about the group and join it and contribute information,” Cheung said. “There are conferences and events with tons of extra food at the end that should not go to waste. We say where it is and tell people to come get it.”
Under Cheung’s care, the Free Food group has successfully adapted the reality of a society with an unbelievably high amount of food waste to meet the mindset of frugal students—a service to McGill that will continue to be used and appreciated long after her graduation.
McGill Tribune (MT): What was your Halloween costume this year?
Dawn Cheung (DC): My partner was the cow and I was the farmer at a couple costume contest—we won. [Then] we switched halfway through the night because we can fit into each other’s clothes.
MT: What is your greatest regret?
DC: That I couldn’t get all the free food. Sometimes I see the free food posts, but then it’s too late and there’s no time, or I was busy and couldn’t get it.
MT: What is the best thing that happened this year?
DC: I moved out! I no longer live with my family.