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Cooking Up Diversity

Unique In Canada, New Food Service On Campus Offers Healthy Meals And Jobs For The Under-Employed



Chef Ben Kramer - Photo by: Ian McCausland

WINNIPEG, MB - It's a whole new concept in campus dining - attract a well-known chef, offer socially responsible and delicious food, provide high-quality jobs for immigrants, newcomers and Aboriginal peoples - put in a blender and mix. That's the winning recipe that students, staff and visitors at The University of Winnipeg are about to experience.

The architects of this food services delivery model are two Winnipeg based organizations, The University of Winnipeg Community Renewal Corporation (UWCRC) and SEED Winnipeg. They have created a joint venture called Diversity Food Services that will employ approximately 25 people to provide all food services on campus including meal-plan students living at the new McFeetors Hall student and community residence. In the coming months, employees and managers of Diversity Food Services will be invited to invest in its ownership. It is an approach that is unique among universities in Canada.

“We are responding to the needs of our students by providing quality food that reflects the rich diversity of cultures on our campus,” said Lloyd Axworthy, UWinnipeg's President and Vice-Chancellor and Chair of UWCRC. “Just as importantly, by recognizing all those who contribute their energy and skills - from the Prairie farmer to the chef to the servers - we are advancing our robust sustainability goals on campus. We are also deeply committed to actions that enhance and support our surrounding community. We are particularly proud that this initiative will offer training and good jobs to Aboriginal people as well as newcomers from countries such as Sudan and Nigeria who often face barriers to employment.”

Diversity will be led by experienced managers. Both the executive chef and the manager of operations are distinguished by their passion for good food, and their commitment to sustainable environmental practices whenever possible.  Ben Kramer will lead the venture as the Executive Chef. Kramer put Dandelion Eatery on the Canadian map as one of the 10 healthiest places to eat in Canada, and recently placed second in the Manitoba Iron Chef competition. Kirsten Godbout, former general manager of the award-winning cafe Bread & Circuses, is managing the operational side of Diversity.

“Food is a natural way to appreciate and celebrate the incredible diversity of ethnicity and culture present in the UWinnipeg community and surrounding neighbourhoods,” said Godbout. “Learning together to learn the best ways to grow, buy and prepare healthy food creates opportunity for community-building.”

In developing nutritious, affordable and ethnically diverse food options, Diversity will focus, wherever possible, on locally sourced, organic ingredients, reducing transportation costs, decreasing the dependency on food grown with herbicides and pesticides, and securing products that benefit those who grow them through a commitment to fair-trade practices.

“We will create authentic cultural food that is prepared from scratch using authentic ingredients and recipes. We will make our food alive with flavour and nutrition,” said chef Kramer. “We will start with food in its simplest, most natural form and will purchase local and seasonal products. Our freezers will be small and our intention to serve great food will be big.”

Sherman Kreiner, Managing Director of the UWCRC, describes the venture as consistent with the UWCRC's mandate to work towards developing a sustainable University community that is attractive to the faculty, staff, students, and the greater community. “Every thing that we do, from building new campus and community facilities, to operating University business services is designed to address each of the critical pillars of long-term sustainability - environmental sustainability, social sustainability, economic sustainability, and cultural sustainability.”

“SEED's mission is to positively influence the quality of employment opportunities for workers from low income communities, by supporting initiatives which offer good wages and benefits and career advancement opportunities,” said Cindy Coker, Executive Director, SEED Winnipeg. “We seek to develop business opportunities where workers have access to skills training and training in various aspects of business management. Business ownership provides an important asset opportunity for individuals from low income communities”.

The new food service comes into effect this summer.

BACKGROUND

SEED Winnipeg, Inc. is a non-profit agency whose mandate it is to combat inner-city poverty by aiding people in their efforts to save money and to start small sustainable ventures. By offering business management training, individual help and business advice, small business loans and savings programs, SEED Winnipeg has been instrumental in changing the course of many lives in the inner-city.

The University of Winnipeg Community Renewal Corporation is a University created not-for-profit, charitable organization whose board of directors is drawn from both within and outside the University community. The UWCRC's mandate is to support the University by developing a sustainable University community that promotes the attractiveness of the University to its faculty, staff, students, and the greater community. UWCRC is responsible for developing new University facilities. It is also responsible for managing non-academic University business centres, within the mission and vision of the University, to generate surpluses which can be returned to the University's general operating budget.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION
Diane Poulin, Communications Officer
The University of Winnipeg
P: 204.988.7135, C: 204.293.1167
E: d.poulin@uwinnipeg.ca