McGill Students Are P*ssed About Astronomical Food Prices On Campus

They're fed up, not well-fed.

Staff Writer
McGill students walk through campus as it snows.

McGill students walk through campus as it snows.

McGill's food is expensive, and it's not getting cheaper, according to students from across the university's two campuses. The price of food has been rising for years, one student told MTL Blog, to the extent that food prices are now increasing even between semesters.

"The prices are so high that students will delay or completely skip meals in order to avoid paying for food in the dining hall," Lola Milder, a representative of the student activist group Let's Eat McGill, told MTL Blog over the phone.

McGill's mandatory meal plan costs $6,200, of which $4,025 goes into "home base food dollars:" money that can be used to purchase food from dining halls across McGill's campuses. But students say that food prices at campus eateries are much higher than at nearby grocery stores — up to a 200% markup, according to analysis from Let's Eat McGill.

"And even that bizarrely high amount for eight months worth of food, many students are reporting that that's not enough to eat three meals in the dining hall per day," Milder told MTL Blog. "Student Housing and Hospitality Services even admits that on their website."

She's right: McGill's own website for the mandatory meal plan states that it's "an introductory plan that provides a base amount. It is not designed to cover the cost of all your meals for the entire academic year" (emphasis original).

"Most likely," McGill admits, "you will need to top up or add food dollars at some point depending on your spending habits and food preferences."

For students on the Macdonald campus, the situation is even worse. The closure of one key nearby grocery store, Marché Richelieu, left students in what the McGillTribune called a "food desert" in early March.

In light of Marché Richelieu's "unexpected closure," the McGill administration introduced "a weekly shuttle service that departs Laird Hall at 6:45 p.m. on Monday evenings and transports Macdonald students to and from the Walmart Vaudreuil location where they have access to Walmart, and other retail locations such as Metro, Dollarama and Bulk Barn," media relations officer Claire Loewen told MTL Blog over email.

When discoveries of asbestos in campus buildings meant there was only one non-shuttle food option left — a student-society-run restaurant called Ceilidh, which closes at 3 p.m. — one Macdonald campus student told the Tribune that they began to "rely less on fresh vegetables or meat and live off plain rice or cereals."

The shuttle itself is "a band-aid solution," Milder said, "but it's not permanent, and our campus should be able to provide necessary services to students."

The shuttle service is expected to end on April 17 of this year.

"In a word, it's irresponsible," Milder said of the predicted closure.

McGill's media relations team pointed out to MTL Blog that "the neighboring John Abbott College cafeteria is also accessible to McGill students and staff and is a viable alternative."

Milder sees things differently, emphasizing that "food should be part of how we cultivate community on our campuses."

"I don't want McGill students to go to John Abbott College for their lunch because I want [them] to be sitting together at the dining hall on their campus, or a cafe on their campus," Milder said.

"Suggesting that students go elsewhere" for their food needs, rather than meeting those needs directly on campus, "is just disrespectful."

This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

Willa Holt
Staff Writer
Willa Holt is a Staff Writer for MTL Blog, often found covering weird and wonderful real estate and local politics from her home base in Montreal.
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