The alternative food collective grows into a budding business.
By Jordan Parker – April 22, 2011
The Dean’s kitchen in Alexandra Hall is a flurry of vegetable-chopping and arranging. Two volunteers have been preparing snacks for the King’s Students’ Union Awards night for the past five hours, peeling vegetables with dull knives. They’ve opened several cans of chickpeas without a can-opener. “We’re KAFCA – we make do,” says Jess Geddes, a committed member.
The King’s Alternative Food Cooperative Association began catering this year. Co-founder Omri Haiven says it’s just another way of serving King’s students.
“The idea behind catering is solidarity. We’re showing that students are capable of giving food, and being a presence on King’s campus,” says Haiven.
Haiven co-founded KAFCA with several other King’s students October 2009 to provide local food options to students. They got off to a rocky start, Haiven says, when they asked locals farmers for help.
“One farmer gave me a tongue lashing. He said ‘Why the hell would I give you free food? Students are better off than some people. So why shouldn’t we give it to the food banks?’” says Haiven.
The group decided one of their main goals would be to give a fair deal to the farmers and integrate them more into student life. They began by offering local food servings for two dollars on Fridays.
Student feedback has been positive, says Haiven. He believes KAFCA has also encouraged students to think about what they eat.
“We can start a dialogue with people through the food we create … every time you eat food, there’s a story to what you’re eating. It does a lot of community-building work for us,” says Haiven.
Their catering business is an attempt to provide a service outside of the monopoly that Sodexo holds on catering at King’s. Haiven says Sodexo offers a “top-down, inflexible model of food preparation” that does not participate in the community. So far, KAFCA has not been in conflict with Sodexo.
Lee Dekel, the member in change of catering, says it has been a rewarding experience. KAFCA has catered for two of the biggest events at King’s this year: the KTS dinner and the Day of Action.
“The KTS dinner was a huge experience in terms of learning about catering and what it takes. It showed that just because we’re student-run doesn’t mean the food can’t be of great quality,” she says. “The event that was the most fun was when we made 300 burritos for the Day Of Action. Organizing that and dealing with the chaos and fervour of the event was wonderful.”
Although the organization receives money for their catering, treasurer David Etherington says profit is not the end goal.
“We aim for cost neutrality. We just need to cover our operating costs,” says Etherington.
Dekel says that pricing for catering is dependant on the event and the society’s budget. The catering for the International Women’s Day for $30, but the KTS dinner was closer to $1,000.
“We’re looking to develop a set menu and prices for the catering side next year. We want to find inexpensive things to make that won’t take too much time,” says Dekel.
Haiven wants catering to become another way to give the students and societies at King’s a sustainable food option.
“The idea behind this group is try to inject food politics and conscious eating into the community. Catering and serving students are both very effective ways of doing that.”