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No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

The KSU’s food advisory committee has been rushing to table a business plan for the new King’s canteen on Halloween. They must create a model that satisfies the competing demands of feasibility, bureaucracy, and their own mission of ethical and sustainable food.

Since the success of the boycott, the KSU’s food advisory committee has been rushing to table a business plan for the new King’s canteen on Halloween. It will list more inevitabilities than choices. They must create a model that satisfies the competing demands of feasibility, bureaucracy, and their own mission of ethical and sustainable food. In a meeting on October 18, at which the speakers only barely outnumbered the audience, the KSU canteen committee explained what would have to be done.
Before opening the doors on the new canteen, the KSU must buy or rent it from the administration. The administration has asked the KSU for $75,000 up front, plus $5,000 a year for maintenance. KSU Student Life VP Anna Dubinski said that the maintenance fee was reasonable, but that the initial cost was “fairly ridiculous.” The KSU will make a counter offer along with their business plan. Bizarrely, Dubinski joked later in the meeting how convenient it was that the canteen space had “just appeared.”
Either way, starting up the canteen will take money, and lots of it. On top of the cost of the space, Noah White and Lyon Lay estimated that start up and initial food costs will be over $40,000. While nobody would confirm a student levy, loans or KSU funds won’t cover start-up costs. A new canteen will almost certainly mean students pitching in.
As for the food, the options are equally limited. The KSU lacks the money, infrastructure and organization to make their own food at King’s. That means prepared food will come through Local Source, the only food provider that satisfies the KSU’s limited budget and ethical standards. While getting food from the farmer’s market would be nice, committee member Kai Miller said, “that would mean juggling a dozen contracts at a time.” While the KSU hopes to make their own food for the canteen in the future, that is unlikely to happen soon.
The organization of the canteen, said KSU External VP Omri Haiven, will be a “cooperative within a business within a union.” Simply put, that means that King’s students will likely pay for the canteen through the student union, and be rewarded with discounts and the right to vote on the canteen’s activities. It also means that the KSU could be on the hook if the canteen loses money.
Internal Coordinator John Adams, who has done much of the heavy lifting on the business plan, points to the Wardroom as an example of how the canteen could succeed. The Wardroom’s advantage is that it does not have to make money.
“Even with minimal margins, It’s still turning a profit,” he said. “I don’t know why we couldn’t do that at the other side of the room.”
The KSU committee will meet with the administration’s committee later this week. Next, the KSU plans to ask students for their input on the business plan. It is difficult to see, however, many major decisions that are still open to serious change. The largest fork in the road that was presented at the meeting was the choice between Just Us and Java Blend as a coffee provider.
Once the canteen committee’s mandate is finished, however, it will be up to students to keep the canteen running.
“We are going to get this started, but then we are going to hand it over to you,” Adams said. “Good luck.”

By David J. Shuman

David is a second-year journalism student at King's, is engagement/news editor of The Watch, and a copy editor of The Pigeon. He writes on student politics, campus happenings, and school news. 

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