Organisation - April 21, 2011

Tasty or healthy and sustainable?

No two people want the same thing. At least, that is the case for the canteen. Now catering at Wageningen UR is being put out to tender again, everyone can make their wishes clear. But surely the key thing for a canteen is simply to have tasty, cheap food?

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Myrthe Tienstra
Project researcher in Food Chemistry
'I always bring my own bread and eat with colleagues here in the department. The Biotechnion doesn't have a canteen any more, and I don't feel like walking to another building. So it is important that a new catering company should be prepared to have facilities everywhere. In addition, the University should make sure the canteens are healthy and help staff to eat healthily. Healthy employees are also cheaper. Fruit and cherry tomatoes, for example, should be displayed prominently. An apple should be a lot cheaper than a fatty snack, and also not much more expensive than in the supermarket. You could also make fatty snacks more expensive so that you can subsidize healthy fruit. There should be pre-cut fruit to make it easier for staff to eat more fruit.'

Elizabeth Sargant
Member of staff with the Environmental Policy Group and one of the organizers of the sustainable Eat Ins at the Leeuwenborch
'Wageningen UR should think hard about what is good for its employees. The requirements a caterer has to meet concern the kind of facilities you want to offer your staff, which could be different for each location. I think two things are important. Firstly, the canteen assortment should be more appealing for international students and staff. Then they would not need to go home for lunch or get food elsewhere, and we could all just eat together at lunchtime. That social aspect is also important. So find out what hot meals people would like. It would also be really useful to have a microwave for people who have to a long way to go at the end of the day so that they can eat something hot before going home.
Secondly, the assortment should be sustainable. That does not mean everything has to be organic, but there should be more organic food than is the case now. And there shouldn't be a choice between organic and non-organic; there should only be organic milk for example. There should also be more regional and seasonal products, like apples from the Betuwe and the leeks for soups from the Born experimental farm. You can start small and gradually build it up. So preferably have a caterer with that kind of experience.
It doesn't have to be more expensive. Using food that is in season can work out cheaper. Prices aren't carved in stone either. You can make the snacks and chocolate more expensive, which will let you keep the prices down for soup and apples. The coffee must remain Fair Trade and organic at any rate.'

Leander and Ton
International Agribusiness and Trade students, VHL Wageningen
Leander: 'I would be happy to see them really cut the prices. If they halved the price they would sell four times as much. A ham roll for one euro is a lot more student-friendly. And it doesn't have to be such a wide range. You can also vary the assortment per day: rolls with lettuce and egg one day, and with lettuce and cucumber the next. Why have six different kinds of soup?'
Ton: 'They should follow the example of the Restaurant of the Future. At least it is run in a professional, customer-friendly manner. You are more likely to want to buy something in a more pleasant place. I would also find it handy to be able to pay by debit card. I've already been to my bank four times to get a new card because the prepaid facility wasn't working.'

Eric Visser
Facility services manager at IMARES
'Only IJmuiden has a canteen - there is nothing in our other four locations. Albron has only been doing the catering since last November as we still had a contract with the previous catering company. That means we have just had a round of price increases and the switch to prepaid card payments. There used to be more soup and snacks sold to eat with your sandwiches, but now the favourite choice is the extremely tasty filled rolls. I would be particularly interested in hearing what the new caterer can offer the smaller locations, a building with forty to seventy staff, for instance, half of whom eat in the canteen. Any catering company that does that will be very welcome in the new building in Yerseke once it is ready.'

Calvin Theosabrata
Urban Environmental Management student 
'I never go to the canteen because I think the food and the assortment are worthless. These days I stick to a typical Dutch, practical lunch of cheese and ham sandwiches. But I would like it if they had hot meals with pizza, pasta or rice, or a salad bar where you can serve yourself. The meat croquettes are far too expensive at the moment; they should be cheaper.'

Jos Teunissen
Finance and Control employee, Agrotechnology and Food Sciences Group
'I would say tasty and cheap are the main criteria. I regularly go to the canteen in the Chemistry building but the assortment is terrible. I like to eat something hot for lunch. It really doesn't have to be a full hot meal, but all they have there is a small frying pan - no oven or anything like that - when even the bakery will heat up your sausage roll for you. They do have toasted sandwiches but they will give you the end of the loaf, which is all crust. They serve it with that side down on the plate, out of sight. That is not right. Fortunately I am a big fan of soup.'

Jeske
Fourth-year Nutrition and Health student
'I would like to see prices come down a bit, especially the filled rolls. I don't really find the soup of the day that expensive, but sometimes there are lumps in the soup so there is room for improvement there too.'

Martine van der Ploeg
University lecturer in the Soil Physics, Ecohydrology and Groundwater Management Group
'I would say: organic and Fair Trade and tasty. At the moment I often bring my own sandwiches because I don't find the assortment appealing, and I mainly buy organic and Fair Trade products. I can see why students would opt for affordable but I feel having only organic food would be appropriate for staff at a university that is involved in the life sciences and research for a sustainable living environment. At any rate, all the meat should be as sustainable as possible.'

Barae Jomaa
PhD student in the Toxicology Group
'Every day I have soup, salad, bread and cheese in the canteen. The quality is fine but I wish it was rather cheaper. I think it's ridiculous that two slices of cheese cost more than a euro. I used to eat a lot at Unitas but unfortunately that isn't possible any more. I would also like there to be more variation in the fresh salad. And it would be nice if there was a microwave where you could heat up leftovers from home.'

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