Student - September 13, 2007

Makeover for mensa food

Declining numbers of eaters mean that now only two of the original four mensas are left in Wageningen. Student clubs KSV and SSR-W are hanging in there and have both restyled in the hopes of attracting new customers.

With the arrival of a new cook last March, student club KSV revamped its menu in an attempt to get rid of its reputation for providing greasy food. Selma Zambeek is in charge of the KSV mensa: ‘We are offering healthier meals because that’s what students want. Pasta and rice are on the menu once every week, and potatoes with meat and vegetables once or twice. There’s more fruit and more choice for vegetarians.’ Greasy food has not disappeared completely: whereas the daily menu changes, the weekly menu is always a fried dish. So visitors have a choice.

The same goes for vegetarians – by increasing the choice of vegetarian dishes KSV hopes to attract new eaters. Zambeek: ‘Last year 110 people a day ate at the mensa. About a quarter are veggies but we’d like to see more. Most of our customers are either members or groups of study associations who have a meeting.’

Whereas KSV invested in revamping its menu, SSR-W carried out an extensive renovation of its mensa hall this summer. The hard work was worth it: the room is light and the atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming, in contrast to the KSV mensa, which remains dark despite a new floor.

SSR-W has changed its menu formula too and now also has a daily and a weekly menu. The meat now comes from a new supplier. Last year SSR-W had an average of 85 eaters per day, of which less than half were members. The others are university staff, clubs with meetings and sports club members.

A three-course meal at both mensas costs 3.70 euros. At SSR-W the dessert at 30 cents is optional, and the main course costs 3.10 euros. To promote their mensas, KSV and SSR-W will be holding a joint theme week in October with festive menus.

The big question is of course whether mensa food is now better. Is it tasty enough to eat there regularly? The answer is that the quality of the food has definitely improved. The vegetables are no longer soggy, you get chunky mashed potato instead of French fries, and there’s a wider choice of veggie burgers and meat on offer. Nevertheless it’s still canteen food, so not like home cooking, and of course it’s more expensive than preparing food yourself. On the other hand you don’t have to cook or wash up, and that’s worth a lot to many students.

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