July 5, 2018 7:02 pm
Updated: July 5, 2018 9:07 pm

Questions left unanswered after local food vendor’s contract at U of A unexpectedly cancelled

WATCH ABOVE: Support is growing for a local food vendor at the University of Alberta. Filistix has been open for seven years on campus but their time there is coming to an end. Julia Wong reports.

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One of the few local food vendors on the University of Alberta campus is “shocked” and “surprised” after the business’ contract was unexpectedly terminated, leaving many staff and students on campus outraged and petitioning to save it.

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Filistix, which specializes in Filipino cuisine, started as a food truck by Roel Canafrance and U of A business graduate Ariel del Rosario. In the summer of 2011, the food truck was invited to operate on campus and in the fall of 2011, a physical storefront inside the Central Academic Building opened.

del Rosario touts the restaurant as locally owned with fresh ingredients; it recently became the first gold-certified vendor on campus, receiving an award from the university’s office of sustainability. The importance of fresh, nutritious and sustainable food are all touted on the university’s dining services website.

“Our vision is to basically change the way people perceive food on campus,” del Rosario said on Thursday.

“Us being a local vendor, I think it adds a different kind of perspective on food.”

But on June 18, del Rosario said he was given notice that Aramark, which runs dining services at the university, was terminating their contract.

“We were shocked just because we have had such a great relationship with Aramark and the University of Alberta,” del Rosario said.

“We were quite surprised at the decision. From our perspective, we’re quite popular and a busy food vendor on campus. It’s a little bit disappointing but, at the same time, we’ve had a wonderful run of seven years here.”

del Rosario said he understands Aramark has the ability to manage their vendors how they see fit, however, he said he was not given a clear explanation about why the business’ contract was not renewed.

“They wanted to go in a different direction. They didn’t really elaborate on that,” he said.

Esther Fujiwara, a psychiatry professor at the university, said she eats at Filistix a couple of times a week and has been a frequent customer over the last six years.

“They’re fresh. They’re local. I love the taste. This is a unique place other than all the chains we have already,” she said.

When she heard the news that the restaurant was being forced to leave campus, Fujiwara helped start an online petition to save Filistix.

“I just wanted to raise awareness for the traction these guys have. We can’t be quiet about this,” she said.

“[Aramark has] been replacing local food options on campus for a while, one by one, and this is such a staple to the U of A.”

Watch below: Some Global News’ videos featuring Filistix.

Fujiwara said she does not know what contracts are involved with the vendor but said the university needs to stick up for local businesses.

“I think the university has a moral obligation to support local businesses if they can,” she said.

“It just makes me really mad to have this unilateral decision made and forced on us.”

Fellow professor Micah True said he was “very unhappy” when he heard about the contract termination.

“It takes away, really, the only option for me to eat on campus,” he said.

“It seems like smaller, locally owned places are disappearing from HUB mall — from other places on campus — and they’re being replaced by chains. I think the university ought to be supporting locally owned, small places that focus on high-quality fresh food.”

The University of Alberta deferred questions to Aramark and did not respond to followup questions from Global News.

“Filistix’s contract to provide food services is with Aramark, not the University of Alberta. Aramark is permitted to make decisions about how it manages its contracts. The university was made aware of Aramark’s decision to terminate their agreement with Filistix,” reads a statement provided to Global News.

Aramark did not respond to questions from Global News about why the contract was terminated. The company instead sent a statement, which reads in part:

“We are committed to offering a variety of high-quality, healthy and convenient dining options on campus.”

One of del Rosario’s main concerns now is for the 10 staff who work at the U of A main campus and Edmonton Clinic Health Academy.

“We wanted to make sure they were taken care of in terms of their future,” del Rosario said.

“Through the transition period, we will take care of them in terms of giving them a little bit of compensation along with whatever benefits they get from employment insurance.”

He said the business is working on a project in another part of Edmonton that will hopefully open in the fall. The MacEwan University location is not affected, del Rosario said.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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