Free sandwiches are being handed out on Roeterseiland this week. The students of the so-called Antikantine are arguing against the ‘criminally’ expensive prices in the canteen and for more vegan food. On Wednesday, the students were asked to leave. They continued their activities outside.
Riot in the UvA canteen on Roeterseiland this week. Starting Monday, students are handing out free food around noon as an action against the ‘criminally’ expensive prices of the regular canteen. Education Sciences student Titus van der Valk (25) is the initiator of the initiative. “We want the canteen to be affordable for students and staff. That is essential for accessible education - you have to be able to eat well for a reasonable price.” The money to hand out free sandwiches came from the students of the Central Student Council. They donated €1,100 to the project.
Van der Valk further explains, "Every day around noon, the question comes up again: what am I going to eat now, and where do I buy it? For sure not in the canteen, where the prices are expensive. A friend of mine from Germany tells me that she looks forward to lunch during every break at university, but with us, lunch is a stressful moment.”
In addition, the students feel that the cafeteria should be affordable for everyone. “And not just for wealthy students,” Van der Valk continued. “We want students to have a say in how food is organized at our university since they are the main customers of the canteen. It shouldn”t just be a top-down decision from the perspective of someone who hasn”t studied for ages. This can be done, for example, by a canteen board that also consists of students.”
UvA’s caterer also recognizes that food has become more expensive because of inflation, among other things. District manager UvA-HvA of Cirfood Liesbeth Nijhuis comments: “Of course, I recognize that things are changing in the world. The first thing I heard on the news this morning was that food prices have gone up again by eight percent. I’m still shocked when I check out my groceries at the supermarket.”
“Students are always allowed to take action,” Nijhuis continued. “I just think they would be better off talking to the UvA. You always achieve more with that than by taking action. They are also hitting the wrong group. After all, Cirfood works with local entrepreneurs from restaurants who work very hard every day to make something tasty for all students.”
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Van der Valk and his fellow students argue for a more traditional canteen, rather than a ‘paradise of consumption’. “We should go by the principle ‘eat what’s on the plate’ for lunch instead of having the choice of an array of expensive food. The choice of two vegan meals would already be good, for about two euros each. Besides, I think it is important to promote vegan food as much as possible because the meat and dairy industry is very harmful to animals and the climate. The UvA does sell a lot of vegetarian and vegan food. But I would prefer to see a fully plant-based canteen - dairy products also cause serious animal suffering.”
Cirfood’s corporate vision is that everyone has a right to healthy food. That also means that within the assortment there is a choice between different foods, as well as ‘luxury’ and ‘less luxury’ products. Nijhuis: "This way there is always something affordable for everyone. Two euros for a healthy meal is just not feasible. In a home situation, you can”t buy a healthy meal for that amount, and in a professional environment like the canteen, you certainly can’t, either.”