Food Revolution

The King’s Alternative Food Cooperative Association has changed our school in the last two years. With KAFCA members on every committee and at every meeting, King’s has built a new canteen, planted a new garden, and made food politics the student issue of the year.

Photo by Niko Bell

The King’s Alternative Food Cooperative Association has changed our school in the last two years. With KAFCA members on every committee and at every meeting, King’s has built a new canteen, planted a new garden, and made food politics the student issue of the year.
But since KAFCA’s catering services came to a dramatic end this fall, the collective has been remarkably silent. This month, The Watch spoke to founder Omri Haiven – who left the society in 2011 to attend to his duties as King’s Students’ Union External VP – and current co-coordinator Emma Wolfe to find out about KAFCA’s metamorphosis.
What does KAFCA hope to accomplish?
Haiven: We set out with KAFCA with the radical concept of students controlling the food that they eat. I think that concept has really permeated the entire college. You look at what happened with the canteen. A lot of people who were part of KAFCA were also part of envisioning the canteen. I think the imagination necessary to even envision a new canteen was a result of the work that KAFCA did. Food is a really current political subject for a lot of people here who are interested in changing the world political and social justice wise.
Wolfe: KAFCA has gone through a lot of changes this year. Last year KAFCA was able to be involved in a lot more big political stuff; this year it’s become much more about grassroots getting people knowledgeable about local, sustainable food. That means getting as many people as possible to know what a CSA is and how you get one.
Why is food a student issue?
Wolfe: Food is an everybody issue, and I think students are a group of people who are able to respond to it really well. Especially students at King’s. We’re intelligent and globally minded people. There’s something really incredible going on right now. I keep hearing it in so many places. The number of food decisions you make in a week is massive, whether you’re a student or not. Students are in a position to take on the kind of neglect of the last couple of generations, of that area of our lives. But I can’t think of a group of people it shouldn’t be an issue for.
Haiven: That’s a really good question. Maybe it would help if I told you the founding story of KAFCA. I was part of a group along with the people who founded the loaded ladle, and we were a working group of NSPIRG. So, in some ways KAFCA is a result of NSPIRG’s work. Our goal was to take away the corporate dominance of food on the university campus, and to reinstate some food sovereignty. Food sovereignty is the idea that the people who interact with it directly should have control of the food.
In the university setting especially, food is integral. It’s one of the few things that everyone participates in on campus. Before there were very few food options on campus that weren’t dominated by corporations. Then there was Fresh which later became Local Source, but they were really on the periphery. And I think what these groups have done is inspire students to see food as a ground zero site of struggle to take control of their own education.
The university is, at its core, a community. And part of that community is the food that it produces. I think that if the food that we get here is exactly the same as the food you can get across the country, because it’s Aramark, Chartwells or Sodexo, then I feel that reflects badly on our food culture and the culture of our university.
Wolfe: We’re a community that likes to take on social issues like this. It’s amazing how much something as simple as deciding to make the Galley a locally sourced business can be. I think as far as being a student and setting up your own rules for your whole life, having this global wave of interest right at this time puts us in an incredible position.
It seems a little strange that the KSU is holding a Kraft Dinner cookout to protest students having no money, and at the same time promoting high quality food.
Haiven: Well, I don’t think anyone in our grandparents’ generation would have ever questioned the idea of organic. To them, organic was just food. So I think the idea of high quality food is a misnomer. What we’re trying to do is provide students with the nutrition that we need to create the kind of community that we want here. When we talk about the contrast between the Kraft Dinner cookout and the Galley canteen, I think it’s important to realize the integral issue of consent. There was a referendum that was passed, and a student initiative, rather than an imposition—which is what is happening with the government’s current tuition fee hikes.
So, where does KAFCA go next?
Wolfe: My goal for KAFCA has always been just to bring it to as many people as possible. It’s hard to take something that last year was such a place of bonding and excitement and have it turn into much more of a dinner club, as much as that is still an incredible thing to offer at King’s. You can make a decision tonight to go and eat from the superstore, or come and experience this other way of eating. To me that just leads into a lot of other political issues.
Haiven: I’d like to see KAFCA maintain its status as a society like the KTS or the Haliburton society. The sort of society that is integral to our community and really reflects our values.
Coming out of the boycott, we had two demands: one was to create the canteen, and the other was to create an independent advisory committee on food issues on campus. And while the canteen is student-run, there are significant chances that it could diverge from the views of KAFCA. KAFCA is concerned with looking at every single meal that we eat, and that’s not what the canteen does.
These interviews happened separately, and were edited for clarity.
The original print edition did not clarify that Omri Haiven, as KSU External VP, is no longer active in KAFCA. We regret this omission.

By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

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