College taking steps to combat food poverty

With the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating a number of pre-existing inequalities in the UK, there has never been a more pertinent time to tackle food insecurity.

Dietary inequalities, which are closely linked to other health and economic inequities, were highlighted in the Food Foundation’s ‘Broken Plate’ 2021 report which suggested that a healthy diet is unaffordable for a significant percentage of the UK population. At a more local level, people in Dundee are going hungry and struggling to access food with recent research indicating that 5% of adults in the city experience food poverty.

This bleak situation, coupled with feedback from existing students, is what prompted D&A College to make the commitment to combat food insecurity, within the student community and beyond, through the establishment of a dedicated Food Poverty Group. The group reviewed the services already available and put in place a variety of new initiatives designed to support students who are struggling with food poverty.

To make healthy food more affordable for the student population, the College now provides its catering outlets with an annual £200k subsidy to ensure that healthy foods, such as homemade soups, sandwiches, hot pasta and rice dishes, salads and fruit, are available, more affordable and accessible. Kitchen facilities have been installed at each campus where students can enjoy free access to microwaves and hot water, allowing them to heat up their own food or make hot beverages. All students also now receive a ‘fuel up for free’ card at the start of the new academic year that entitles them to one free healthy meal a week from one of the College’s catering outlets for the first 6 weeks of term.

For those in need of some extra sustenance, food larders are in operation at each campus, enabling students to pick up what they need for themselves and their families, and breakfast bars help them fuel up for the day free of charge before their classes start.

The Food Poverty Group is supported in its endeavours by both Dundee City and Angus Councils who work alongside the College’s Student Services team to provide Foodbank goods and produce for students who are finding it difficult to afford an adequate diet. Wraparound financial advice and wellbeing support is also available for those who need it.

Jaki Carnegie, Vice Principal and leader of D&A College’s Food Poverty Group, believes the College has an important role to play, “Our students come to College to help build a sustainable future for themselves and their families. Our role is to support them to have a great experience at College, without them having to worry about facing any day with the prospect of nothing in their tummies.  We aim to minimise the stigma that is associated with poverty by putting in place dignified access to food alongside the other wraparound services that everyone deserves to have access to.”