OPINION: What the fork, Humber? Stop charging students for utensils.

Sep 22, 2023 | Headlines, Opinion

After two long years of closure, Humber College’s North campus finally opened its Food Emporium. The variety of available food confuses me, let alone a first-year student. The facility mimics a mall food court with cuisines from Italian to South Asian.

However, it was the checking out process that took me by surprise.

“That will be $16.95,” the cashier said.

Confusion took its toll. I zoned out.

When did a cup of rice, two shrivelled broccoli and a spoon of chicken breasts tossed in sauce cost $16.95?

To make matters worse, the cashier asked for an extra 25 cents for a fork.

What the actual fork?

In an era where the cost of living and food prices are at an all-time high, students are finding it hard to stay focused in school, let alone manage their finances. It is disappointing to realize students will now have to pay an additional fee for utensils in addition to already expensive lunches.

“It will be an additional 25 cents for forks, and additional for chopsticks,” she said.

I immediately thought of using my hands as I exclaimed my disbelief loudly, “a weh yuh nah seh!” That’s Jamaican patois for, what do you mean?.

I know that 25 cents may seem like a small amount, but if I am supposed to eat five meals weekly at the maximum price of $17, assuming that I attend all my classes for the month, the total which I will pay for food — and forks — will amount to $345.

In a recent interview I conducted on Radio Humber discussing food insecurity among young people, Valerie Tarasuk, a nutritional sciences professor at the University of Toronto, said food insecurity affects not only the overall nutritional health of young people but also their mental health.

Providing accessible and cost-effective food options in institutions will remedy the causes and effects of food insecurity among youth.

With everything happening worldwide and a batch of students who have lived their first-ever major world event, why does Humber’s food contractor believe it is fitting to charge students 25 cents to address the permanent ban on single-use utensils?

Arguably, climate change is as important as one’s mental health. After all, they work hand-in-hand, but we can not deny that despite having a law which bans the use of single-use containers, forks and plastic bags, Humber’s Food Emporium continues to contradict its policies by selling plastic forks.

Canada implemented the single-use prohibition in 2022. A fact sheet instructs restaurant owners, manufacturers and food service providers on how to deplete their stocks before the ban becomes permanent.

The fact sheet lists a dollar amount for which said parties should charge their customers in the depletion process. The practice might have been adopted by Restaurants Canada who on its website said, “charging consumers a visible fee for single-use cutlery may also discourage their use.”

Restaurant Canada also said providing alternatives to single-use cutleries such as moulded fibre, bamboo, wood, and edible cutlery made from wheat, oats, corn and rice could be an innovative way of encouraging consumers to go green.

Humber, on the other hand, does not provide the options and continues to charge its 25-cent levy.

While no one expects to have a cost-free dining experience, there has to be a middle ground where a balance exists between unreasonable charges and the financial well-being of students.

I believe it is high time that an institution of higher learning is transparent with its students and looks out for their best interests.

Because one day, I will not give a fork and eat with my hands.