While a student diet historically may imply highly processed convenience food which is inexpensive and simple to cook, there is a mass of evidence that we all know, suggesting that today’s generation, quite rightly so, are demanding a higher-quality and nutritionally viable taste plate.
Studies in the United States claim that 54% of students demand healthier and tastier food options in student halls, which happens to coincide with an increase of students limiting their meat consumption in favour of a plant-based, vegetarian diet. Furthermore, almost three-quarters of UK students say they are eating three good meals a day and 72% classify themselves as healthy compared to 67% of non-students – so are students the new leaders in the future of food? I think so.
The increased desire for nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables as well as protein alternatives opens up many opportunities for university halls to drive forward the importance of nutrition and incorporate a varied, balanced array of foods which fulfil student’s expectations whilst following global food trends. Catered students may make up the minority of student living, but their diets may be the most malleable as their food intake can be directed by choices available during communal meal times – menus can be limited, yet diverse, nutritious and delectable.
The majority of students in the UK are living in self-catered accommodation, which gives students a high degree of free will and challenges in terms of dietary choices. Many of these students will opt for on-campus outlets for at least one of their main meals, allowing universities to deliver even more for health-conscious students. For example, at the University of Nottingham, the students’ union has introduced a new concept for traditional students. The ‘Portland Juice Bar’ sells a selection of fruit-based smoothies. Furthermore, The University of Leicester’s Del!licious outlet sells a selection of salads, vegetarian wraps, hearty soups and nutritious snacks. The creators are passionate nutritionalists.
By ensuring healthy food is of high quality and easily accessible to students, many may be surprised to find how often students migrate towards a greener lifestyle. University halls have the power to influence and facilitate this throughout the campus and these small incremental changes have the power to revolutionise an entire generation’s health and wellbeing. Don’t ever underestimate your influencing power – please believe the power is in your hands.
We were lucky to create the food strategy for the London 2012 Olympic Games, the world’s largest food event. We set a multitude of aspirational targets, many seen as impossible at the point of presentation, 97% of which were achieved and have taken global events to ‘a different place’.
Believe and you will make a difference.