Campus calling

09/08/2016 - 07:22
The eating habits of students living on and off campus show significant differences according to a study of the eating behaviour of British university students, and these don’t always reflect well on the catering offering available on site. David Foad reports.

The eating habits of students living on and off campus show significant differences according to a study of the eating behaviour of British university students, and these don’t always reflect well on the catering offering available on site.

In fact, ‘risky eating behaviour’ – characterised by high levels of snacking, high consumption of convenience and fast foods, and low consumption of fruit and vegetables – was found to be more likely to happen on campus than among those living away from the university.

In the survey of 345 British undergraduate volunteers, who completed a lifestyle questionnaire, 18.6% overall fell into the risky eating category, but that figure rose to 27.1% among those living on campus against an off-campus figure of 16.4%.

In their analysis, the researchers noted that 82% of the students living off campus were with a parent or guardian, adding that “research has reported students living outside of the family home to consume fewer fruit and vegetables”.

The findings come from a research article titled ‘Eating Behaviours of British University Students: A Cluster Analysis on a Neglected Issue’ published in September 2015.

The biggest category in the study was termed ‘moderate eating behaviour’ – characterised by low snacking, moderate consumption of convenience and fast foods, and low consumption of fruit and vegetables – and included 49.9% of the study cohort.

In this case, living on campus seemed to support the diet of students. Of those in halls of residence, 59.7% of the students displayed this eating behaviour, against the 47.9% of those living off campus.

The researchers concluded: “The findings of this study reaffirm the role of the university microenvironment, particularly on-campus living, in eating behaviours in university student populations.

“Suggested explanations for this include financial restrictions, availability of healthy meals and food availability on campus.

“While further research is needed to understand students’ eating behaviour choices, current understanding would support a review of university food environments in sight of the recognised importance of supporting and developing health-promoting eating behaviours in emerging adult populations.”

The suggestion that university caterers have an important part to play will be directly addressed during the conference when Professor Patricia Riddell and Emily Hancock from the School of Psychology and CLS (Clinical Language Sciences) at Reading University present a session titled ‘Nudging healthy choices’ on 27 July.

The conference theme of ‘Your mind on a plate’ hints at the psychology now involved in student feeding, and the idea of nudging runs through the conference agenda.

There are, among others, sessions such as ‘Nudging locally’ on local sourcing by Oliver Rowe, BBC’s Urban Chef, and ‘Nudge for profit’ on branding and visualisation by Giles Poyner of the Holman Group.

Julie Barker, chair of TUCO, has expressed her excitement ahead of the event, explaining: “Our aim of sharing industry expert knowledge with our members is intertwined with an enjoyable and atmospheric event, and every year, the TUCO Vonference brings something new to the education catering sector table.

“Not only will guests grow their skill sets and knowledge of the industry but, at the end of each day, attendees will also grace the halls of renowned venues, such as at the Exeter Cathedral, to dine and socialise in style.

“By evaluating our offerings, TUCO is always evolving, discovering and delivering new ways to reach more members.

“That is why the TUCO Conference is a must-attend event on yearly calendars, and why booking in advance for 2016 is a must in order to avoid disappointment.”

According to organisers, hundreds of higher education sector catering professionals are expected at award-winning University of Exeter where they will have the chance to discover a whole new world of products and concepts, to share opinions, to network with peers and attend exclusive seminars.

From cheese and wine-making to flora and fauna viewing, the conference learning tours based around Exeter’s city and campus offering on the first day, including locations like Pebblebed Vineyard and Quickes Farm.

“On the first evening, T-Fest will get into full swing, TUCO’s very own festival – but without the mud or Portaloos.

“Attendees will enjoy an evening catching up and networking with colleagues and suppliers with a background of live acoustic music and entertainment, while sampling from a variety of food and drink stands.

The conference will also delve into the marketing and social media world, with noted speakers such as Geoff Ramm – multi-award-winning speaker, creator and author of Celebrity Service and OMG Marketing – and Karen Fewell from Digital Blonde giving their ideas about new approaches and old techniques.

This year’s ‘Live lounges’ programme will offer visitors a chance to see demonstrations of grills, heated bowls and brownies, as well as previews of Persian, raw and vegetarian food.

Delegates will also be able to enjoy a selection of seminars on proteins, sustainable seafood, kitchen design and all-important waste management solutions, for example, which will spread expert industry knowledge, and develop minds and menus.

And TUCO’s biggest exhibition yet will feature companies from Bidvest to Britvic and Peros to Pieminister, giving attendees the opportunity to browse solutions and discover new products and concepts.

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