Good Times Diner launches educational speaker series

Meal service available for all students, not only those who cannot afford food 

ASUS Good Times Diner provides 55 to 60 meals every Sunday.
Journal File Photo

ASUS Good Times Diner has resumed normal operations post-lockdown, sharing Sunday night take-out meals with students and individuals across the community from its kitchen in Chalmer’s United Church.

A team of seven volunteers make 55 to 60 meals every Sunday, ready for pick-up from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. While those accessing the service are encouraged to sign up ahead of time to reserve their plate, there are limited walk-up meals available based on capacity each week.

Students have been able to pick up meals like Beyond Meat chili and garlic toast, tofu/chicken katsu curry, or Thai green curry. 

“[T]his service is really for the students,” Febri Kurniawan and Mitul Karmaker, Good Times Diner’s co-directors, wrote in a statement to The Journal

READ MORE: AMS services reopen for business

“In order to destigmatize this service, we cannot have the mindset that this service is only for those who cannot afford food, because food insecurity occurs in many forms and we want to also provide meals to students who cannot prepare a nutritious meal because they are busy with assignments and exams.”

The diner was still operating during the lockdown earlier this semester; however, it had to reduce its volunteer capacity to five people to meet COVID-19 guidelines. This meant the diner also had to reduce the number of meals available from 55 to 35 meals per week during that period.

“We are super fortunate to be able to open even during the lockdown because I think it is critical to always continue to provide our service during this time,” the directors wrote.

Good Times Diner also started the “Working Towards Food Security and Sovereignty” Speaker Series to increase awareness of how prevalent food insecurity is and educate students on how they can help as individuals. 

The overall goal is to destigmatize food insecurity through education, according to Kurniawan and Karmaker.

“This pandemic has really been hard on everyone and especially hard on those already experiencing food insecurity, so we hope that this speaker series can not only educate, but also provide some resources at Queen’s and in Ontario that can help support individuals facing any form of food insecurity.” 

The series was developed by Siobhan Wilson, one of last year’s co-directors and a current member of the outreach coordinator committee.

READ MORE: Queen’s remains in planning phase about whether vaccine will be mandatory

“The speaker series really integrated many professionals from various fields in the food system to talk a little bit about their research, their experiences, and their programs that help fight against food insecurity.”

Each session focuses on a different dynamic of food insecurity.

“So far, we have seen speakers talking about the definition of food security and sovereignty which really sets the foundation of our series, this was done by Dr. Kristen Lowitt,” the directors wrote. “[T]hen we have seen speakers talking about Queen’s and then about Kingston, which was done by Dr. Elaine Power.” 

“Now, we hope you can see some implications and some programs reaching out in Ontario and throughout Canada.”

The latest webinar looks at implementing the recommendations of Queen’s Food Insecurity Report, which was published in 2019. There are currently 14 webinars planned, which the directors said will focus on populations and communities disproportionately impacted by food insecurity, including Black and Indigenous communities.

“[O]ne big thing to mention about the webinar series is how we have learned that income is the major driving factor of food insecurity and that the economic toll of COVID-19 has led to high rates of unemployment, underemployment, and food insecurity by extension.”

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