Education: The power of good food

New research by The University Caterers Organisation (TUCO) and the Oxford Cultural Collective has prompted a national conversation about ways in which on-campus hospitality can make positive contributions to student wellbeing.

Their brand-new ‘Hospitable Campus’ publication claims promoting students’ positive mental health and wellbeing is now a key priority for UK universities and colleges. Within the report, TUCO recommend caterers to think strategically and effectively communicate their institution’s commitment to supporting positive student welfare

It notes interaction with students is a key factor in giving them a sense they are in a safe and welcoming space.

The research encourages universities to empower staff to:

  • Engage students in ‘personalised’ services
  • Achieve positive ‘meaning’ for hospitality spaces
  • Use creative interventions to bring students together, in turn providing them with opportunities to pursue shared interests, and ultimately generate a sense of community.

Matthew White, chair of TUCO, said: “As sector leaders, we are challenged to sharpen our thinking on student mental health and wellbeing and provide support through dedicated initiatives. With an estimated 171 cultural representations in further and higher education, it is important for us to promote and support a positive community atmosphere.”

He continued: “We believe the power of good food, drink and hospitality can help promote a sense of inclusion, community and belonging.”

Previous research has shown that university life introduces a series of risk factors that have the potential to impact on students’ health and wellbeing, particularly for students living away from home for the first time. These include stress related to university work, social pressures, financial burdens and (in) accessibility of good quality food, which are compounded by other factors such as low levels of food literacy.

Matthew White added: “We believe hospitality is a shared responsibility. By focusing on the intended outcomes of hospitality provision, communicating an up-beat message about the value of inclusion and community, and by stimulating positive emotional responses, we can challenge ourselves to embed a culture of delivering a life-enhancing hospitality experience.”

‘Hospitable Campus – Foodservice management and student wellbeing research’ is available now at www.tuco.ac.uk/grow/tuco-research