Will your university’s food take you to the top of the table?

Amy Leech - 30 May 2012

Students eatingWhen I chose my University, I used my own lens of good practice to sort through the pile of well-produced prospectuses. My criteria? Nearest city, nightlife, length of the swimming pool, course content, campus location. I didn’t take a moment to consider what food my catered halls, the uni café and other campus food outlets were going to serve me.

Having grown up on a pretty good diet of local, free range and fresh food, in the quiet confines of Cornwall, I landed at University a naïve being (in many ways!) with no reason to think my catered meals would be any different.

How wrong I was! From the first evening at university my diet and eating habits took a turn for the worse.

I ate sporadically (the meals weren’t worth queuing for) and resorted to supermarket sandwiches for lunch (the canteen specialised in chips). The novelty of Saturday lunch - chips, ravioli and a Magnum icecream - soon wore off.

The result was an expensive and unhealthy diet, which did nothing to boost my energy, health or grades.

Amongst all the upheaval, what I needed was as much help as I could to get keep me healthy, and at the very least balance out the 5-(pints)-a-day drinking culture that the first year of uni brought with it.

It’s both brilliant, and a relief to see that the People and Planet Green University League criteria includes their performance on sustainable food provision, and that of the top five universities, three of them have received an award to say they are meeting Soil Association Catering Mark Standards. The award guarantees that food served in the university cafes is fresh, seasonal and better for animal welfare.

If our universities plan to cook up the best minds, then they should aim to serve their students' brains and bodies the best food too – to boost not only their own environmental credentials but also their students' chances of leaving university with a healthy diet and mind, and the highest grades they are capable of.

I’d be interested to hear whether other students (past and present) have shared my experience of university food.

Read the full story: Food for Life Catering Mark helps University of Greenwich to highest ever Green League score

Amy is Research Assistant at the Soil Association.

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