Survey finds students distrust tap water and blow their budgets on takeaways

Date 6.02.2019

The University of Northampton has launched an initiative to get its students living more sustainable and healthier lifestyles after a survey found many were blowing their cash on bottled water, takeaways and ready meals.

A food poverty survey of 490 students found one-in-three pay out for bottled water daily, with many citing a distrust of tap water as the reason, while a fifth buy ready meals every day and 12 per cent eat takeaways on a daily basis.

The survey also found:

  • 22% of students overspend their budget every day
  • Only 12% of students plan their daily menu
  • 49% of students eat simple starchy carbs every day
  • 9% of students throw away half their food every day
  • Less than 1% of students eat food that is safe but past its sell-by date
  • 17% of students exercise every day, but 17% also nap every day.

The survey data, which was collected by Foundation Study Framework students, led to Senior Lecturer in Social Innovation, Tim Curtis, to set up a Food Unwrapped project.

This three-day initiative saw a chef and nutritionist from University caterers CH&Co work with students to cook up tasty meals that are cheap to make and full of nutrition. The students were also given a host of tips on how they can change their budgeting and eating habits.

Tim said: “Food poverty is a complex problem and can have negative effects on students’ studies and educational outcomes.

“My Foundation Study Framework students’ survey found a host of worrying trends and we were determined to set up a project to try and help all students live a healthier life.

“The most striking thing for me was the misconception that bottled water is fresher than tap water. A large proportion of students believe tap water to be either dirty, or of low quality, and it doesn’t taste nice.

“We were also concerned that students lacked skills, knowledge or just the confidence to cook for themselves, and we’ve been delighted with the way they’ve responded to our cookery project.”

The sessions gave Business Studies student, Tom Marshall, a much-needed kick-start to begin cooking for himself again.

“The last time I prepared something properly was in October, when I made fajitas,” said Tom.

“I did food technology at school and really enjoyed it, and I can cook, but it’s always seemed like a waste of time to me. I feel that when I’m cooking I could be doing something else, and just get a pizza instead.

“But working with the chef here has brought back a few cookery basics I’d forgotten, and it’s given me the push I need to get back into cooking for myself.”

Engineering student, Alphonse Okamba, has always cooked for himself, but found the sessions opened his eyes to new ways of doing things.

He said: “I got so many new ideas on how to make a simple meal that more nutritious and appetising, by adding in some different ingredients. The tips from the nutritionist also got me thinking more deeply about the right things to eat.”

It’s hoped the Food Unwrapped project will become an established fixture during the academic year.

Pictured from left are Alphonse Okamba, Tom Marshall and chef David Lively.