A bread roll often costs over four euros on campus and you have to pay nearly eight euros for a hot meal. That is far too much for the average student, says the Gelderland branch of the Communist Youth Movement (CJB in Dutch). The CJB has started an online petition to draw attention to this.
Caterer Compass has been in charge of most of the canteens on campus since the summer. And you can tell. The prices are a lot higher than before. A recent comparison already showed the most expensive soup of any Dutch university is served here on campus. A bowl of soup costs 2.75 euros on average. But according to the CJB, the caterer is also charging ‘exorbitant prices’ for other items.
The reason the CJB is raising this issue is because of conversations with students, says spokesperson Jean Querelle. ‘As a small youth organization, we look at issues facing students and young people in work. Last year, that issue was the rising energy costs. In the conversations on campus, the canteen prices were mentioned a lot.’
The petition calls it ‘scandalous that a university that claims to be an international leader in food and nutrition doesn’t set a good example by offering its students affordable meals.’ Querelle refers to WUR’s Food & Beverages vision statement, which says there should be a choice available for everyone, regardless of their income level.
WUR spokesperson Jan Willem Bol says the caterers on campus decide themselves what prices they charge. ‘But they do have to provide an assortment that is tailored to a range of budgets. We find the prices to be in line with the market. The prices have risen sharply over the past year, but that is due to inflation and increased staffing costs. We are in a permanent dialogue with the caterers, including about the prices.’
We are in a permanent dialogue with the caterers, including about the prices.Jan Willem Bol, WUR spokesperson
To accommodate customers with more limited means, the canteens have recently started offering the option of buying the bread roll and spread separately rather than the expensive pre-filled rolls. But one thin slice of bread still costs 45 cents. The choice in spread is limited to jam and chocolate sprinkles. In some canteens you can’t get cold meat or cheese, or the bread you cut yourself that the previous caterer offered.
In the petition, CJB calls on WUR to appoint not-for-profit caterers to run the canteens. And if that is not possible, to make sure a hot meal does not cost more than four euros. The petition has got some 100 signatures so far. Querelle can’t yet say what the next step will be. According to him, that depends in part on the support among the students.