Funding Frigo Vert
Le Frigo Vert, Concordia’s nonprofit food co-op, is seeking a fee levy increase this week. The organization, which currently receives 25 cents per credit from undergraduate students, is represented in a referendum question on the Concordia Student Union Elections and Referenda ballot this week, asking if students agree to increase this amount to 33 cents per credit.
The collective’s last fee levy increase was eight years ago, in 2004, and collective members say that rising operating and food costs have forced them to seek greater funding.
“Our cost to provide this service to students has gone up as rent and fixed costs go up. The number of students that access the service has also risen,” said Bronwen Agnew, a collective member, who added that the co-op “subsidizes all the prices in the store.”
Two years ago, the Frigo’s bid to obtain a 12 cent per-credit increase was unsuccessful, shot down on the ballot by a narrow margin of only 128 votes.
But Agnew is confident that this year’s campaign has enough momentum to succeed.
“We are just in a climate where we have a lot of support right now. It goes up every year in terms of the number of students that go in and access the service, so we have that on our side. Also a bigger number of people are needing the service: students who rely on the service as a main source of food due to student poverty on the rise and that sort of thing.”
The collective,which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, was one of the earliest grassroots food organizations on a Canadian campus, and is known citywide as an outspoken advocate for food security. Despite its historical roots, the Frigo has recently partnered with younger organizations such as Concordia’s Greenhouse—which provides them with produce for sale in the store.
“[Le Frigo Vert] was relevant back then and it’s even more relevant today, in terms of students getting together and pooling their resources and creating alternatives to the mainstream food distribution system,” said Agnew.
“For us, it’s about being present and working with other groups.”
Despite this presence, the Frigo Vert still appears invisible to some students.
“I was not aware that Concordia had a vegan food store at all,” said Mac Rennington, a student at the John Molson School of Business. It was a sentiment echoed by Andrew McMillan, a first-year Philosophy student, who had heard of Le Frigo Vert, but did not know where it was located. Several students polled at SGW campus echoed this sentiment.
“I know about Le Frigo Vert and appreciate it in theory. But half of the handful of times I’ve tried to go, the store was closed,” said Sonia Pietravalle, a second-year Art Therapy major who lives downtown. “I wish they had better hours.”
Elizabeth, a student in the English department, says she appreciates the role that Le Frigo Vert plays in offering local and organic goods.
“It’s unique as far as health food stores go, and the prices are very fair,” said the second-year student, adding that she supported the fee increase as she felt places like the Frigo Vert were rare in Montréal.
“To be able to get sprouts from the Greenhouse, that kind of super-local food on offer, it can’t get better than that,” she said.
For Frigo Vert collective members, alerting the public to their existence, as well as expanding outreach work, are parts of their aim in seeking a fee levy increase.
“We continue to serve a political mandate,” said Agnew. “The funding will help us to continue to donate or offer reduced-rate food for student organizations and student events, to do education, to do different activities around campus, to let people know about food security.”
The CSU Elections and Referenda vote runs from March 20-23rd, with polls closed on Thursday. Polling stations are open on both campuses from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.