Picture this: you’re weaving your way through Mystic Market’s labyrinth of lunchtime madness, dodging food trays and slow walkers, when you spy a small group of students with a ‘Free Food’ sign just outside the main doors. Intrigued, you hesitate, but one glance at your watch jolts you back into a hurry again—but you can’t help thinking: what was that sign all about?
Well, that would be Vulture Culture (VC), one of UVic’s newest student-run activist groups.
Founded by Megan Dewar, Mya Heibert, Nicole Cymerys, Julia Bayne, and Selina Powszendy, Vulture Culture is a brand-new organization that hopes to destigmatize ‘tray raiding’—the act of eating food left on trays in order to cut down on food waste.
Unhygienic. Gross. Unnecessary. Did any of those words pop into your head? Well, if they did, then Dewar has a few words that she hopes will sway your thinking.
“I was introduced to tray raiding through the members of another club on campus, the Community Cabbage, which also focuses on the issue of food waste,” she says. “After learning what tray raiding was, I began to notice other students on campus participating . . . Tray raiding occurs all over campus, [and] VC exists to encourage even more participation.”
“We created the group this year to run parallel to a course we are all taking focusing on the concept of mindfulness and social change,” she continues. “The Vulture Culture movement is our way of mainstreaming [the idea of combating food waste]. We aim to break the stigma that eating other people’s leftover food is socially wrong.”
Donning black-and-white Vulture Culture T-shirts and an eagerness to spread their message, club members frequent Mystic Market to engage in tray raiding and answer any questions the public may have. Perhaps surprisingly, the public’s reaction to them has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I think it’s a great idea to reduce food waste,” said second-year student Lindsay Killough, when asked about Vulture Culture’s mission. And Killough isn’t alone: despite only being introduced this year, Vulture Culture already has 134 likes on their Facebook page at time of writing, and their petition for a permanent ‘food sharing’ table at Mystic Market is already gaining traction online.
“Personally,” Dewar says, “I joined VC because I believe in food justice and I wanted to be a part of achieving that [on campus]. I enjoy food, I enjoy sharing, I enjoy sustainability. Essentially, VC combines all of these aspects into one action.”
Dewar and the rest of Vulture Culture’s founders hope that their philosophy about food will catch on, and it seems like at least some of the student body is onboard so far. VC hopes that their actions will continue to propel UVic forwards on a path to sustainability.