Culinary students talk jobs, cost of living at St. Lawrence Market: ‘Money goes by so fast’

Culinary students talk jobs, cost of living at St. Lawrence Market: ‘Money goes by so fast’

Five conversations on five hot button election topics in five spots around Toronto. Join us as we make our way through the city chatting with young Torontonians about the issues they’re watching this federal election. In the first of the series, we speak to a group of George Brown College culinary arts students having lunch at St. Lawrence Market about the rising cost of living and the grind to get a good job.

Minimum wage may have gone up over the years, but that hasn’t necessarily made life more affordable for young students in Toronto.

A trio of culinary students speak to the Star about labour issues at St. Lawrence Market.

“Yeah the $14 an hour is nice but, at the same time, again, all the prices are getting jacked up,” says Leonel Rivera, 19. “You’re paying more on your bills rather than expenses that could be paid (somewhere else) like maybe trying to get a new home or maybe trying to put food on the table.”

The economy and jobs remain one of the top issues to Canadians in this election, according to a recent Forum poll. The Star caught up with Rivera, along with two fellow George Brown College culinary arts students, on a recent weekday at St. Lawrence Market to chat about the struggles they have faced building a career for themselves.

“We all plan to vote and our focuses will include education and employment,” says Alyssa Crocco, 24. “I haven’t made a decision but I know a little about each of the platforms. It’s definitely really accessible. There are a lot of articles circling social media that break each platform down. Seems like a lot of people are interested more so than other elections, at least people my age.”

The Star met up with three culinary students at St. Lawrence Market to talk about what federal election issues are important to them.

She and her friends say they chose the culinary arts industry in part because they felt it offered more opportunities than other industries that are oversaturated and full of older workers who aren’t retiring at the same rates. The students say they’re working minimum wage or slightly higher-than-minimumpaying jobs in the food business while aiming to work their way up.

“Money goes by so fast, plus the cost of tuition, if I have a car,” Erica Li, 20, says. “It’s tough being in Toronto.”

Li and Crocco both live at home with parents in Richmond Hill. Sometimes they take an Uber home from the city, and that’s still cheaper than trying to pay rent in Toronto, they say.

Instead of saving up for a big-ticket item, like how her parents may have saved up for a home, Li is trying to scrap together enough for a vacation in 2020.

“It’s not going so well,” she laughs.

“Things like owning a home, owning a car, that kind of stuff, it feels like so far out of the realm of possibility based on our salaries that we need to save for short-term goals because it’s a bigger motivator,” Crocco says.

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Sahar Fatima
Evelyn Kwong

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