A topic I would like to touch is the different dynamics around food existent from the student perspective. As a university student in the UK, it is easy to notice the massive emergence of the takeaway industry. Not only at a campus level, but in the high-street of probably most of the British towns, there is a strong presence of fast-food branches.
Many of these multinationals have gained power recently with strategies like international franchising, which includes expanding growth overseas to generate more profit and more independence. Their marketing practices are extremely smart, often targeting students (many of whom are on a budget) with appealing discounts and intelligent marketing practices such as that McDonald’s free burger voucher on the back of a bus ticket.
The U.S. is a worldwide leader on many of the top 100 franchises, many of which belong to the fast-food industry. For instance, Domino’s pizza ranks the 6th position, so the enormous influence this pizza leader exerts on population is considerable.
With technology emerging, there are endless options to access food these days. For uni campuses which are a bit far from the city centre, getting food deliveries at your student accommodation is usually appealing for many of us: there is no need to worry about buying the ingredients or cooking, we just need to unlock your phone and wait to be fed within… 30 minutes? No wonder why many of my 1st-year flatmates would opt for this convenient option, especially considering the commercial partnership existent between our university and Domino’s pizza… students and staff are given discounts and free slices of pizza at key busy events such as the Welcoming Week every semester. I remember stepping onto the campus for the first time ever, walking around with my two big suitcases ready to find my accommodation, and noticing stalls with the D pizza sign, as well as people with their blue t-shirts giving vouchers and offering greasy slices. Not sure exactly if this could be considered a warm welcome…
Another anecdote related to these “benefits” we get as students, starts with me getting super excited after getting hired by my uni for a tele-fundraising campaign, to raise funds for students from non-traditional backgrounds. As the introductory email stated, we were provided full 2-day-training, together with lunch for these days. “Wow great, we will just have to give notice of our dietary requirements,” I said to my friend Rafa, who is also vegan. The training weekend arrived and so did our hunger after the first 4 hours of getting used to the fundraising program. Eventually, the computer room started to get smelly and the tables got filled with Domino’s pizzas. As our supervisor approached Rafa and I, she apologised, giving us two cold salads she had just picked up from the Nisa (supermarket at the campus) because she did not manage to get anything else. What is interesting is that, as the only two people from the group with dietary requirements, we were asked specifically what we wanted to order days in advance. Being surprised by this kindness, we decided to go local and support a Greek family-owned café in town, which offers many affordable plant-based options.
In essence, my point here is to address this unbalanced power existent in the food industry. With universities sometimes functioning as business organisations, there can be a lack of involvement with the local community, and this feeling can easily be transmitted to us, the students. Unlike our ancestors, our generation has grown up in a world where we can easily access food at all times and places. This has made us extremely unconscious about the actual value that food has, and when eating out, we can be easily manipulated by these large corporations for several reasons: a) convenience; b) low price; c) tastiness (due to flavour-enhancing additives). I am not saying that we should return to hunter-gatherer models, but a bit more attention to our eating patterns would be beneficial to start appreciating our immense luck, particularly considering the innumerable list of countries with population dying from malnutrition.