Where Can a KPU Student Get a Bite to Eat?
Features / October 21, 2016
Your guide to food on the Surrey Campus
Joseph Keller, Web Editor & Melissa Pomerleau, Contributor
Students at KPU may have noticed that the food situation on and around the Surrey campus is lacking something.
The surrounding area features an A&W, a McDonald’s, a Tim Hortons, several pubs and small family-owned eaterys—all just out of range of being conveniently accessed by foot. While the strip malls directly next to the campus feature a couple pizza places, there is only so much pizza-by-the-slice that a person can eat in a week.
None of these options provide much for the health-conscious student, and since few of us have the time to trek to faraway restaurants between classes, it’s worth knowing what’s available right here on campus.
The Birch Cafeteria
Sodexo is a multinational food service company operating in 80 countries, and like most multinational corporations, they have a number of scandals to their name.
At least nine universities across the world have chosen to boycott Sodexo for a variety of reasons, such as alleged low pay, investment in private prisons, poor food quality, and a lack of local food options.
In 2013, all of Sodexo’s frozen beef products within the UK were recalled upon the discovery of horse DNA being found in their beef.
The Sodexo Justice Services is a branch of Sodexo that owns and operates prisons across the United Kingdom. The company was accused of terrible inhumane treatment of a female prisoner who was detained in a segregated cell for 5 years.
The Cafeteria in the Birch building is operated by that very same company.
“I started two months ago at this University, and my main goal was to get everything up and running from the summertime when we were closed,” says General Manager of Sodexo at KPU, Kevin Poland. “I’m trying to provide things that are a little bit healthier for the University, and a lot more variety.”
In an effort to provide a variety of healthy options, Sodexo has a number of programs in place. For instance, “In My Kitchen”brings top chefs throughout Canada together to offer up some of the recipes they grew up with.
“Mindful” by Sodexo is another initiative to encourage healthy choices. It focuses on veggie-based dishes that are low in sugar and salt, while steering away from breads and other high fat foods.
The cafeteria offers burgers, fries, quick grab-and-go items such as salads and sandwiches, and Starbucks brewed coffee.
“All the meats we serve in our sandwiches, aside from pepperoni and salami, are fresh meat, sulfite and phosphate-free and cooked in house,” says Poland, who explains that the cafe is equipped with it’s own, in-house deli and grill.
Information on Sodexo at KPU can be found at www.kwantlenkuisine.com. According to the site, Sodexo “support[s] local businesses and communities by purchasing from local producers and growers. Sodexo buys 100 per cent of our fresh dairy products from local and regional farmers. For the future, we have committed to serve only farm and ranch products that are sustainably grown by local producers and minority and women-owned businesses.”
“Through our purchasing, that is all taken care of,” says Poland. “We purchase a majority of our products from Gordon Food Service, and they in turn look to local areas and bring food from local areas into their main warehouse, and then we take it from there.”
Poland is also hoping to introduce a few healthier and more gluten-free options to the menu, like gluten-free pastas, and offering brown rice instead of just white.
“We’re going to try to become a lot more nutritious without alienating the burger/fry people,” says Poland.
Those turned off by Sodexo’s corporate history, or just anyone looking to support something more independent with their food budget, might want to check out the Grassroots Cafe. As the name implies, the Grassroots is a small, independent, student-run initiative with a focus on sustainable operation and providing healthy eating options. The cafe is located in Cedar building across from the athletic department.
“The Grassroots is here to provide people with affordable and nutritious meals,” says Adam Rhode, manager at the Grassroots.
In addition to their food and beverage offerings, the Grassroots also provides catering services for events around campus throughout the semester.
As a Kwantlen Student Association initiative, the cafe is funded in part by student fees. While Sodexo has a non-competition contract with the university, there’s an agreement that allows the cafe to operate. Staffed by KPU students, part of the mission of the Grassroots is to provide a venue and gathering point for student life. To that end, the Grassroots hosts events such as open mic nights, stand up comedy, live music, movie nights, viewing parties for sporting events, and more.
“We want to provide students with an atmosphere that they can’t get anywhere else on campus,” says Rawan Ramini, KSA Vice President Finance and Operations, who helps oversee the Grassroots Cafe. “Students can come here, grab a meal, grab a drink, listen to music, watch a movie or a live performance, and experience student life.”
“We’re starting to see a lot more people coming down and participating in the events,” says Rhode.
Health and sustainability are key elements of the Grassroots mission. It offers organic food options whenever possible, with much of the cafe’s offerings coming from KPU’s own gardens, courtesy of the university’s agriculture and food programs. In keeping with this philosophy, there are always ample vegan options available.
Ever head to the Tim Hortons during a class break only to find the lineup stretching down the hall? Nobody should have to wait that long for a cup of coffee. To skip that line, head to the Grassroots where the line wait is rarely unreasonable. Drip coffee is sold as well as cappuccinos, lattes, mochas, and other specialty coffees.
One definite point in the Grassroots’ favor is that it’s the only place on campus to get beer. Recently-added taps mean that craft beer is available, and beer made by KPU’s brewing program students is coming soon.
The KSA is always looking to address student feedback with the Grassroots in order to improve the venue. This past summer, the Grassroots was the subject of major renovations to improve atmosphere and bring in more customers. Coinciding with these renovations were overhauls to the Grassroots menu options, with a particular focus on adding sharable snacks such as chicken wings and nachos.
The biggest challenge for management at the Grassroots at this time is increasing awareness of the cafe and bringing in more people. While events hosted at the Grassroots have helped, management continues their efforts to raise its profile on campus.
“Even though we have a closed market, we still don’t have 100 per cent exposure,” says Rhode. “Students still are not aware of us. Even though they may have been on campus for two or three years, they still may not venture to this part of campus.”
Looking for something more familiar? There’s always Timmy’s.
Of course, Sodexo also own and operate the Tim Hortons located in the Cedar building. It offers a pretty wide variety of bagels, sandwiches, donuts, and muffins. Also available are takeaway sandwiches and salads—the same ones available in the Birch Cafeteria. A variety of hot beverages are also served, such as tea, coffee and hot chocolate.
If you’re looking for cheap food and have an infinite amount of time to wait in the incredibly long line it seems to always have, this is probably your best bet.