News - May 17, 2010

Students in Forum want cheap food at doorstep

The Forum is open from eight in the morning to eleven in the evening, but breakfasts and dinners are not yet part of its fare. Even at noon, students are not found in large numbers on campus, as many prefer to lunch in the comfort of their own quarters. This is cheaper to boot.

The campus has a lot to offer a student throughout the day. Besides lectures, practicals and self-study, he can throw in an hour of sporting activities in the Bongerd in between. But the streams of cyclists from noon to evening betray the fact that many students do not stay on longer than necessary.
Noon means eating a sandwich at home, which is cheaper and cosier, many students say.
Occupants of Block 55 at Droevendaal even have a pancake lunch for themselves on Thursdays at noon, with smoothies providing the vitamins. This is an initiative from Louise from Britain, who just before Easter was filled with longing for Pancake Day back home. For at least a Euro, Droef occupants can tuck in together. Vegetarians can opt for pancakes made separately with soya milk and no eggs; some accept honey and eggs as well.
Whoever wants a real hot meal can stay in the Forum at noon. But not many take advantage of that. 'Selling forty meals a day is already on the high side', says Erik Metzer of Albron. 'We do this as an extra service for foreign students and workers. The Dutch still eat bread, soup and milk at lunchtime.' However, much can be said about the price of the hot meals by those who buy a box of food from a mobile Chinese takeaway outside the Forum. These - mainly foreign students and workers - unanimously argue that this is cheaper than in the Forum and there is more food as well. 'It's too far for me to go back to my room', says Abena from Ghana. 'A meal in the canteen is too meagre and too expensive. I get enough here to last me the whole afternoon.' When it began, there was just one food hawker; since then, more have jumped on the bandwagon.
Metzer views the growing car boot sales listlessly, but he can't provide lunches at lower prices. 'I have to comply with many requirements and pay rent.'
He wouldn't be offering dinner either, not yet in any case. There isn't even any intention to carry out a trial because that could cost several tens of thousands of Euros. 'We would have to sell about one hundred and fifty meals to make a profit. When Orion is ready, students may hang around longer within the campus.' It may work out then if he could also sell alcohol.
The Student Council is examining the need for a new evening food joint for students. One way is with a survey. A 'eating facility committee' has been set up after the student societies stopped receiving subsidies for their student canteens last year. Its final report will be ready before summer.
A brief round of questioning in the Forum shows that there is a demand for dinner from both the Dutch and the foreign students. This applies especially to students who are in the Forum not only for lectures and practicals but also remain in the evenings to study, or when very little communal cooking takes place at students' quarters. There are others who prefer to eat at home because they like to cook, have nice housemates, or they eat only at nine or ten o'clock. While a Student Council survey on food needs is being conducted, Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) Wageningen has jumped the gun and managed to arrange for students to have hot meals soon in the Restaurant of the Future on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
From 5 pm and for 5 Euros, students can get a main course as part of a buffet. They have to sign up beforehand and consent to having cameras register their eating and drinking behaviour for a research project into healthy food choice. Please don't call this a new student cafeteria, implores SIFE chairman Loet van Rammelsberg. 'Many students associate a student cafeteria with tasteless and tough food in dim surroundings, but it's not like this here.'
The price for dinner on campus is a moot point. Five Euros is the maximum, a short round of questioning reveals. Dutch students would even give less. They would take part for 3.50 Euros. 'That's what we pay for if we eat at the society', say the girls of a Ceres year club. 'If it costs more, we might as well cook at home.' But is a caterer able to serve a healthy meal at the dining table without a subsidy?