Education

Student-run society offers free food and much more

‘It’s fun to have a community. It’s nice to do something that isn’t school work’

The Loaded Ladle is a registered food co-operative in Nova Scotia.
The Loaded Ladle at Dalhousie University is a registered food co-operative in Nova Scotia.   Jessica Hirtle

Wearing eclectic aprons and hats in bright colours and patterns, members and volunteers chop vegetables, toss mixed greens and roll vegan burritos.

With music softly playing in the background, the Loaded Ladle, a non-profit food co-operative, gears up for another week of free lunches at Dalhousie University.

Established in 2010, the Loaded Ladle first started as a political food activism group serving free soup to students at Dalhousie and the University of King’s College.

“I’m a broke student and it’s really cool that they have free food,” says Jellay Mitchell. “I’ve used a couple of their recipes myself.”

Volunteer Carly Mayhew-Gallant chops veggies during the Loaded Ladle’s weekly meal prep.
Volunteer Carly Mayhew-Gallant chops veggies during the Loaded Ladle’s weekly meal prep.   Jessica Hirtle

Since September, the Loaded Ladle has been serving students from in a new location in the Dal Student Union Building.

The organization also has access to new kitchen facilities, which include new appliances and a large table for meal prep. It offers free vegan-friendly lunches every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 1 p.m.

Emphasizing the importance of local agriculture, the Loaded Ladle purchases produce and products from farms within Nova Scotia, including Hutten Family Farm in Lakeville and HighLand Farm in Belmont.

“It’s all local, organic and it’s gluten free and vegan,” says volunteer Ashley Groom. “If you have a lot of dietary restrictions there’s not a lot of places on campus you can get good, fresh, hot food.”

Board member Allison Lord says the goal of the society goes beyond providing meals. They want people question the way the economic system makes food a community, when it should be considered “a basic human right.”

“At the start, I was kind of naïve,” says Lord. “I really like vegetarianism and veganism. I love eating local, but it’s so much more than that.”

In addition to serving food, the Loaded Ladle works in collaboration with different organizations to provide and prepare food for events. For example, they recently helped the Dalhousie Native Students Association make a traditional moose stew.

In September, the Loaded Ladle had its largest lunch serving of 230 people.
In September, the Loaded Ladle had its largest lunch, serving of 230 people.   Jessica Hirtle

The Loaded Ladle also hosts a workshop series, To the Root: A Radical Look at Food Justice and a book club, Radish Reads, to discuss topics that range from fermentation to climate change.

Lord says the Loaded Ladle is building a community among Dalhousie and King’s students.

“People even meet and become friends in the line up,” she says. “It’s so awesome when I’m serving and I see people start to recognize each other and get close.”

Groom agrees.

“It’s fun to have a community,” she says. “It’s nice to do something that isn’t school work.”