14 May 2024

University of Canterbury students say residence halls not serving enough food

7:48 pm on 14 May 2024

Some first year University of Canterbury (UC) students are so famished they are resorting to purchasing takeaways after meals, despite paying annual residence hall fees of about $20,000.

Students at the Christchurch campus have told of weight loss and cutting into their weekly budgets for food, due to the modest size of meals at a neighbouring hall-of-residence.

The grumbles have prompted staff at the nearby University Hall to trial a self-service buffet system, beginning this week. It is an approach which hungry students spoken to by RNZ were eager to see become permanent.

First year student Ollie Dooley said he had enjoyed his first few months of university life. But he admitted the size of the meals at University Hall had been a drawback.

"All the guys agree that [the meals] aren't big enough," he said.

"There's not enough food and the meals aren't big enough to be honest. At dinner I reckon I could eat at least two of the dinners we're getting."

On rare occasions, hall servers would offer second helpings to students but only when they were "feeling generous", he said.

With sport commitments cutting into meal times, Dooley said he and his friends were regularly spending money on food.

"You're just coping by living off the vending machine and two minute noodles at nine o'clock at night sort of thing."

Some of the students spoken to by RNZ about the size of the meals at the University of Canterbury halls of residence.

Some of the students spoken to by RNZ about meals in the halls. Photo: RNZ / Nathan Mckinnon

Fellow first year student Jack Blyth felt the same way.

"[The meals] can be pretty small at times, sometimes dinner is pretty small," he said.

"Especially after sports training."

Blyth said the self-service trial appeared to be working well and that he was "very keen" to see it become permanent.

Ollie Young said he could eat up to three servings of the average dinner at the hall.

"The food portion sizes haven't been the best, kind of leaves you hungry after every meal. Breakfast is okay but lunch and dinner you can only get small servings."

Young said he was coping by regularly visiting Dominos.

"I'm probably spending an extra 50 bucks a week on food. I've lost five kilograms since I've been here."

Fellow first year student Izzy Nigro said it was mainly the male students who were being left hungry following meals.

"For girls it's not as bad because we don't need as much of a bigger portion size I find, for myself at least. I don't mind it as much but I know it leaves the boys hungry."

Third year student Sophie Kennedy stayed at University Hall during her first year and she remembered the hall catering well for students.

"It was pretty good, I was vegetarian," she said.

"The meal portion sizes were quite good we could go back for seconds. I've heard they've cut a lot of that."

UC's executive director of people, culture and campus Paul O'Flaherty said about 2700 students opted to live in the halls.

"Many have different needs.

"Some hall residents, who may have higher energy needs, will make extra sandwiches and take fruit at lunch or breakfast that they can eat outside of mealtimes."

He said self-service had always been part of University Hall, "aside from the main protein portion of the meal".

"Students can get more protein at the hall's self-serve salad bar."

University Hall was now trialling "complete self-service" in response to student feedback.

"Feedback from student residents is regularly used to make changes in each of UC's independently managed halls," O'Flaherty said.

"Hall staff are available daily to discuss any concerns and answer residents' questions."

The University of Canterbury's Student Association said no one was available for comment.

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