MICHELLE KIM/THE VARSITY

Daria Khalimdarova, a second-year international student from Russia, heats up her food in one of the microwaves at UTSC. This time, it was chicken and rice.

“I am an international student who lives alone in Canada,” said Khalimdarova. “I spend a lot of time at school… so it was challenging for me to start cooking.” However, she said that limited food options, low food quality, and the food vendors’ early closing hours drove her to cancel her meal plan at UTSC and begin cooking for herself.

Most food vendors at Market Place close at 7:00 pm from Monday to Thursday. On Fridays, most close at 4:00 pm. All food vendors at the Market Place are closed on weekends.

According to Food Partnerships’ Assistant Director Frank Peruzzi, they are in the process of developing a new five-year plan to improve the food at UTSC.

“A bubble tea concept is now open at Rex’s Den and a new café called ‘Gathering Grounds’ will soon open in Highland Hall,” Peruzzi told The Varsity. “When the new residence opens in the future, it will include a new dining hall with several new concepts and extended hours throughout the week and weekend.”

He said that when choosing new restaurant concepts, his management team discusses ideas and solicits students’ feedback via student surveys. The surveys are held every two years.

“There are a lot of international students coming from different backgrounds including myself who are struggling to adapt to local food,” said Khalimdarova. “I would love to see some changes towards making different meal options available across the UTSC campus.”

Luke Zhang, a second-year Computer Science student, also complained about the food quality at UTSC. “The healthy options are overpriced in my opinion,” said Zhang.

He cited fruit at Market Place as an example. “I really wish there were healthier options, but there aren’t so I usually settle for a burrito bowl at the local kitchen or a pizza at Pizza Pizza.”

There have also been numerous food quality incidents at UTSC. One of them took place in March, when a student found a winged insect in her food from Asian Gourmet, a restaurant in UTSC’s Student Centre.

Then in August, a “caterpillar-like bug” was found in a first year’s food during the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union’s (SCSU) frosh week.

The most recent bug incident took place on October 15, when another insect was found in Asian Gourmet food.

All restaurants in the Student Centre are separately leased with the SCSU as the landlord.

After the August incident, the SCSU said executives “would be attending Food Handling courses” in preparation for future events.

The SCSU also told The Varsity that it was “disappointed in the recent incident at Asian Gourmet and is currently investigating the matter.”

Zhang thinks that the food quality of the food chain vendors at the Student Centre are poor “compared to the same chain restaurants in other places.”

“Toronto Health Department [assesses] the food safety risk of each vendor and schedule[s] inspections accordingly,” said Peruzzi. “A fresh fruit vendor will likely be inspected fewer times than a burger shop.”

Peruzzi said that each food vendor separately selects its own supplier. He said that he is unaware about whether SCSU executives are trained in restaurant management.

The SCSU has not responded to The Varsity‘s requests for comment.

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