Biting Off More than You Can Chew: An Assessment of Student’s Understanding of Dalhousie’s Food System
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In an ideal world, food systems, including campus food systems, would reflect the needs and values of the communities they serve. However, a lack of understanding can provide a window of opportunity for multinational corporations (MNCs) to exert influence and control in food systems. The purpose of this study was to gauge the understanding that undergraduate students on Dalhousie University's Studley Campus have of the campus food system. The study aimed to bring to light whether a knowledge gap exists within the undergraduate student body with respect to the food system. In this context, a knowledge gap was defined as “a disparity in levels of knowledge” (Oxford University Press, 2017). A one-sided pencil-and-paper survey was administered at three locations on Dalhousie’s Studley Campus: the Killam Memorial Library, Life Science Centre (LSC) and the Dalhousie Student Union Building (SUB). The survey contained eight questions, including non-identifying demographic information and questions structured to gain insight into the level understanding students had of the campus food system. The surveys were administered by teams of two over a period of three days, 21-23 March 2017. A total of 116 surveys were collected. The surveys were analyzed using chi-square tests and frequency counts. The chi-square tests were conducted on SPSS statistics. The analysis yielded few statistically significant results and as a result there is a dominant focus on the frequency data. The frequency data illustrates that there is a knowledge gap with respect to the understanding of the campus food system. To summarize the results, 65.5% of respondents knew “very little to little” about the campus food system, and only 10.3% knew where to find additional information about the food system. Lastly, only 6% of respondents felt that they knew how to voice their opinions, complaints, and concerns about the food system. Recognizing that a knowledge gap exists, it is paramount that there is a collective movement by Dalhousie University, the Dalhousie Student Union (DSU) and other campus entities to work toward a greater and more effective means of disseminating information. Including actively engaging students in the process of developing these processes. Furthermore, it is important to note that students have a shared responsibility in closing the knowledge gap, and should participate in activities to create a food system that is reflective of their needs and values. With a wider availability of information and a willingness by both Dalhousie University and its students to work together, the campus community and food system will be more equitable and reflective of the University's and student body's’ values.