Could a food revolution transform students' lives?

Thursday 09-03-2017 - 12:26

'Student food' is more synonymous with Pot Noodles and pizza than fresh produce, but - judging by the results of our survey - a local, sustainable food movement could significantly improve students' wellbeing (not to mention the planet's).

We did a national survey of students - about food. Our findings reveal the huge potential of local, sustainable food to change students' lives for the better, whilst addressing urgent environmental and social issues. 

And NUS's Student Eats programme offers support to students wanting to embrace this potential by starting their own food enterprises.  

Here are some of our survey's findings on students' attitudes and experiences relating to food - and why they mean universities and colleges are ripe to lead the way to a local, sustainable food revolution! 

  1. Over three-quarters of students agree that it's better for the environment to eat local fruit and vegetables, grown in season. 

And it is! Our food system is a massive contributor to climate change - so the more we grow close to home, or buy from places that source from close to home, the better. Plus, knowing we're making ethical choices can make us feel better about ourselves, can't it? So that's a personal wellbeing bonus, too!

  1. Students feel that food quality and freshness (74%), and taste (62%) are important considerations. 

Local, sustainably-produced food is fresher, and as a result often better quality and tastier too - because fruit and vegetables degrade as they travel. In addition, food grown closer to home racks up fewer food miles, and also allows us to access more knowledge about - and have more control over - the ethics along the production line (such as the treatment of workers and the impact of pesticides).

  1. A quarter of students have been hungry but did not eat because of a lack of money or other resources in the last 12 months. 

Lack of money is an issue for many students, and our survey showed that for some it can impact their diet. This reflects flaws in our economic system; students should not be going hungry - NUS will always strive for social justice through system change. And, at a grassroots (literally...) level, food growing and food cooperative projects can transform student and community lives by putting affordable (or free) food into the hands of those who need it most.

  1. Price (78%) and location or convenience (73%) are the two main factors which influence where students decide to buy their food. 

If you grow your own food, it is highly likely to be cheaper and more accessible in the long-run – particularly if you apply for start-up costs and support from Student Eats for your own enterprise.

  1. Half of students say they would be willing to make changes to the food they buy to reduce their impact on the environment if they knew more about the subject.  

And what better way to learn than to start your own social enterprise, and build a community to embrace a sustainable food future!

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