Hundreds of students and teachers at Lambeth College in London have staged a one-day boycott of its four canteens to protest about unhealthy and overpriced food.
Canteen prices rose last September after the subsidy paid to contract caterer Scolarest, a division of Compass, nosedived from £125,000 to £75,000.
The college expressed surprise at the boycott and claimed it had worked hard with Scolarest to keep prices low for the past five years. It said feedback demonstrated "rising satisfaction with the service", and claimed all hot meals were prepared from fresh ingredients.
But Rob MacDonald, president of the Lambeth student union, said students wanted the price of a full meal dropped from £3-£4 to about £2, and wider choices of fresh, healthy options.
While some prices dropped after the boycott, the union is seeking support from other London colleges for its affordable food campaign and says at least five to date have expressed interest.
Lambeth members of university lecturers' union NATFHE are backing the students' call for healthier, more affordable meals. "There are no alternatives to the fizzy drinks in the vending machines at this college and the food is all processed frozen stuff that comes out of boxes," said the college's branch secretary Frank Innes.
Scolarest said the price rise was the first in four years. "The prices of some healthy items, including fruit, were reduced and the price of a hot meal deal (hot meal plus drink) was held at £1.99. A selection of home-made sandwiches was introduced at a cost of just 99p each," said a company statement.
By Angela Frewin
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