The University of Saskatchewan’s main campus offers many services that help students in their everyday lives, but there is one necessity that has yet to be actualized. To combat food insecurity, the U of S should invest in a student-based co-operative market.
Currently, for students living on or around campus, there are very few accessible options for groceries. I live only a few blocks from campus and — due to my busy student lifestyle — I do not have time between work, volunteering and school to bus to the nearest grocery stores on Eighth Street East.
The present grocery alternatives in the campus vicinity are Mac’s Convenience Store in Lower Place Riel, Brunskill Pharmacy and the Campus Confectionery — all of which have limited and pricey options. The U of S Students’ Union Food Centre, in partnership with the CHEP Good Food Box program, does provide more options, but selection is also limited and schedule-dependant.
As I am sure I am not the only one who spends most of their time on campus, having a grocery store in close proximity would mitigate the barrier of inconvenience, as people would be able to grab their groceries before they walk home or hop on the bus.
Compounding the convenience factor, we have recently become aware of the bleak situation facing many students at our institution: food insecurity. A study published in December 2017 revealed that 39.5 per cent of students at the U of S were food insecure to some extent. Additionally, access to fresh vegetables, fruits and other foods is an issue that a grocery store on campus could help eliminate.
I believe the best implementation strategy for this project would be to pursue a student-based co-operative. If the initiative were allotted a levy as an additional student fee, all students would gain membership, and thus, ownership of the store — much like how Louis’ Loft and Louis’ Pub currently operate under the USSU.
Student ownership would provide a number of benefits, as students would have a say in business operations. Additionally, it would open up opportunities for student leadership through the establishment of a board of directors. Having students in these roles would allow the store to keep its prices student-friendly, thus alleviating affordability issues.
Our student numbers could double as a membership number so that, at the end of the year, a cash return based on an individual student’s usage could be offered as an additional perk. Furthermore, the store would create more jobs for students on campus.
There are a number of locations around campus where a co-operative market could be constructed — the store doesn’t need to be all that large. The Hometown Grocery in my home town of Medstead serves the entire community and area but is small enough to fit comfortably between the pathways that go between Arts and Thorvaldson.
This is a central location that already has easy access points and a parking lot — although Lot G is not currently available for public access, except after hours and on weekends — making it a prime spot to break ground.
Having a grocery store on campus seems to me like a worthy investment for students. It may come with a hefty price tag, but I believe that the well-being of students would greatly improve if this project were undertaken.
Graphic: Linda Minh