Inflating student health

By David Russell, Founder and Chairman of the Russell Partnership

A loaf of bread cost just a penny in 1914, as did a pint of milk or beer. In fact, the average shopping basket back then cost approximately 31p. Rising inflation throughout the 20th century pushed up the price of the same basket to a modest £1.06 by 1964, when bread cost 6p, milk 4p and beer 11p. Moving into the future, a loaf of bread could cost £22 by the next century, whilst a kilo of cheese could cost a staggering £131, according to the Office for National Statistics and Lloyds Banking Group.

However, over the past year food prices actually fell by 2.8p per capita which in turn, pushed inflation down. Food has become cheaper as a result of a bumper harvest in 2014 and lower agricultural costs abroad. The impending deflation throughout the UK promises cheaper foodstuffs for us all, and this could be of particular benefit for university students.

Currently, students are struggling to fill their fridges with fresh, nutritionally dense produce. The University of Edinburgh suggests putting £50 aside for self-catered student food, whereas City University in London suggests an upper limit of £60. In reality, students are spending as little as £15–£20 per week, according to forum website ‘The Student Room’. This assumes non-organic, non-local produce and a potentially higher proportion of refined, processed foods such as white pasta, tinned vegetables and canned meats is taking place of wholesome, nutritious foods. This is not what students want – according to a Sodexo lifestyle study, 79% of students make an effort to eat healthily and this rises to 84% in the private sector, despite the high food prices.

All students must increase their consumption of organic, locally sourced fruit, vegetables and healthy animal products. Options such as this must be available to them at a reasonable price, in order to drive forward the long-term health and vitality of the next generation and deliver to students their desired diets. Many universities are already demonstrating their commitment towards students’ wellbeing, for example, In 2007 The University of Edinburgh was the first ever ‘Food For The Brain’ University in the UK; The aim of the award is to promote awareness of the link between learning, behaviour, mental health and nutrition and to promote optimum nutrition.

We can use these declining food prices to introduce foods to their plates (and our own) via university-owned tuck-shops at a subsidised rate, or integrated into the university’s own food outlet recipes. Together, everyone must take advantage of this positive financial era and show students the importance of a nutritionally viable, sustainable lifestyle.


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