It’s time to talk about the food situation on campus. All in all, it’s been a pretty negative experience for myself. In first year I lived on campus without a car, and with the naive intention of grocery shopping on a budget.
My options were limited; I could get the bus to Tesco (albeit an expensive option but with quality and availability). However, as a first year, I found this option daunting. I was unsure of bussing around Stirling and didn’t think I would be able to carry enough food on one trip.
I had a couple of friends that did have a car, and I managed to get lifts now and then to Lidl (an affordable and high-quality option]. However, depending on these friends wasn’t a very practical option.
My third option was of course (drum roll please)…. Nisa. The local supermarket on campus was only a two-minute walk from my flat, however, this was and remains to be an expensive and low-quality choice. At times Nisa was my only option; wanting to eat healthily and on a budget, I found this challenging.
The selection of vegetables is poor in quality, and the variety of food is limited. I can’t help but speculate that perhaps the rent for these businesses on campus is high, and therefore this causes increased prices. The cost to eat on campus is not just prevalent in Nisa, but in the other restaurants and cafes on campus.
Now that I am living off campus I still find this situation challenging. When I go to University I tend to be there for around 5-6 hours. When I’ve forgotten to pack a lunch to take to uni, in the apprehension of high food prices on campus, my options are again limited.
I tend not to get sandwiches from Nisa anymore because I find the quality so poor. I usually go to the Union café just for a toastie and cup of tea and find myself spending about 10% of my weekly food budget. There are healthy options from the Baxterstorey cafés or restaurants, but again these prices are so extortionate.
The university is a large and prestigious institution, with vast capital flowing in and out of it. There are some members of the university that can afford these high prices, and perhaps these are the people in mind when the cost of living on campus has been decided upon.
But for most of us students, we are unable to afford the food from the place that we spend most of our time.
The university promotes ‘Health and Wellbeing’ on campus; however, this is in an unobtainable reality due to the above factors. The university is in addition, a liberal institution; the work that comes out of the university stands for economic and social equality. The intelligentsia of the university should use the information that we embrace and put it into practice. We should create a mini-society that sets the precedent for the real world.
The current economic climate is such that wages in the UK remain stagnant whilst the cost of living increases. Currently, one in four Britons are obese. The environment that we create on campus should optimise the possibility for better outcomes.
Those that spend the day on campus will tend to be under a lot of mental stimulation, and eventually cognitive overload. Studies show that our ability to assert self-control weakens when in cognitive overload.
So when I’ve just spent the past hour trying to hack out an essay, and I feel a bit peckish I’m more likely to pig out on a bag of crisps than eat some grilled chicken with a side of juicy broccoli. I think that these healthy options need to be more readily available so that making the right choice doesn’t involve so much cognitive power.
Universities I believe should be first and foremost about education and improving society. All features of this institution should represent these tenants. This is where I slide in a solution to my ponderings – a Cooperative.
A cooperative as defined by our trusty friends at Wikipedia is “an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically controlled enterprise.”
Picture a market in one of the university units filled with great quality food, with variety for our students of different religious or ethnic backgrounds. As well as, options for our budding vegan and vegetarian student population. There could be a ‘Subway-esque’ deli to make customised salads, pasta salads, and sandwiches. Making healthy choices would be made easy, as well as tastier.
The cooperative would be run mainly by students that want to volunteer. This might be interpreted as exploitative, but it would result in all produce being significantly affordable, all in the name of ‘non-profit’.
The experience alone would be invaluable for all students. They would be involved in policy planning (for social, environmental, and economic purposes), management, marketing, and retail work. Having the opportunity to work on such as project would create highly employable individuals.
The produce could be sourced locally. There is also the possibility for allotments to be available on campus so the volunteers could grow produce. A kitchen space could also be facilitated for students to make soup, or baked potatoes.
The cooperative would emphasize social cohesion and connectivity, which could greatly benefit the mental health of the social community. Being involved in planning, execution, and then seeing results would impart a sense of belonging, and a growth in confidence.
We currently live in a society that is extremely individualistic and isolating. The fact is that we can now go to a shop like Tesco and not even interact with the people that work there by using the self-service machines. The cooperative would result in a community motivated by improving the outcome of our social environment.