“Students who are not well off, cannot afford lunch in the university restaurant”

“Students who are not well off, cannot afford lunch in the university restaurant”

FPN students distribute free meals in protest against university restaurant prices

30-11-2023 · Reportage

“If you come across any hungry fellow students, do send them to us,” is the advice on Wednesday afternoon on the ‘education square’ at UNS40. In the meantime. long tables are being decked with cardboard plates filled with vegan dishes such as lentil-peanut curry and red cabbage salad with sweet potato. One student after another joins the queue. In exchange for a voluntary donation – “preferably between 2.50 and 4.50 euro” – they can take away a well-filled plate.

The action was organised by student representatives from the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience (FPN) and student initiative Students Before Profit Maastricht. As a protest against the high prices and the limited selection of the university restaurant at UNS40, says Dominik Eberle Martinez, student member of the faculty council, as he fills plates with food. “Lunch often costs more than ten euros, and it doesn’t really fill you.”

In Randwyck – unlike the city centre with its many sandwich bars and supermarkets – there are hardly any alternatives, Irena Xhari, student advisor from the faculty board, adds. “Why are there such strict agreements about only one caterer being contracted? Can that not be changed? So that there are more options to choose from, including cheaper lunch places for students.”

Xhari refers to a survey by FPN student representatives that was completed by more than two hundred students last spring. “Ninety-four per cent said that the prices were unaffordable, 80 per cent wanted alternatives.” And indeed, the organisers get a lot of support from passers-by. “Especially in the busy exam periods, you may spend all day here studying; then you don’t have time to go home and cook,” one of them sighs. “In that case, your only option is an expensive canteen. Students who are not well off, just can’t afford it.”

They want to provide more meals at UNS40 in the future, using today’s profit, says Eberle Martinez. “Most likely, every other month. It is too much work to do it more frequently. Before the summer, we organised a similar event, where we cooked ourselves. That was awkward, because we don’t have a suitable kitchen here, so in the end, we cooked at The Innbetween in the city centre. Now we were able buy food from an external caterer, with a contribution from the Sustainability Hub. We want to do that again using today’s donations, and in that way carry on.”

Meanwhile, the queue of students has largely dissipated, while the pots are still more than half full. “It is more food than we first thought,” Eberle Martinez laughs. “Also, we could only start at 14:00 hrs, so lots of students had already had lunch. Anyway, nearly a hundred people passed by.” The container with donations is indeed very full. “Soon, the tutorial group meetings will be finished, and hopefully more hungry students will drop by.”

Photo: Ellen Oosterhof

Tags: mensa,cantine,food,fpn,protest,students,instagram

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