Students spend a significant amount of time on campus, whether because of demanding class schedules, extracurricular involvement or living in residence. A full-time student with a restricted schedule may seek convenience when it comes to eating, turning to the big food chains festering in Lower Place Riel.
Communities within the province have some of the highest rates of obesity in Canada — contributing to the incidence of heart disease and strokes, which plague our Prairie province. And at the University of Saskatchewan, students have easy access to junk food.
A fast-food diet is of concern for university students as they may not only be making a mark on their health but also
on their bank accounts.
At lunch hour, Lower Place Riel fills with frantic faces, and it is obvious to any onlooker that, predominantly, students resort to these fast-food restaurants on campus as primary providers of sustenance.
With prices ranging anywhere from $3.19 to $21.99, the food options in Lower Place Riel are not affordable. If a student budgets carefully and orders one of the cheapest lunch options in the vicinity — a Vanellis pop and pizza slice for $4.99 — it comes to a total of $5.53 with tax or $27.65 a week if you eat that every day.
Looking at a healthier alternative, like Louis’ Loft, you can feast on a roasted-eggplant panini for $12.00 — or $13.32 with tax. Multiply that by five weekdays, and the total for eating out is about $66.60 per week.
Keep in mind that these prices do not include the extra cost of a tip. Even if a student only eats on campus once per week and packs a lunch for the remainder, the price can still range from $10 to $20 each week. With prices comparable to the cost of textbooks, it is apparent that eating on campus is neither affordable nor nutritious.
The U of S strives to be a leading institution at national and international levels, but is the university up to par with neighbouring institutions? Could the U of S be doing more to help students foster healthy lifestyles?
Food prices are a significant cost for students on campus, and the fast-food outlets in Lower Place Riel limit access to nutritious and affordable food for students. One solution to this problem may be a campus grocery store.
Campuses in Canadian cities such as London, Toronto and Vancouver have grocery stores that are easily accessible, some of which even provide employment for students.
While there is no shortage of fast-food options on campus, there is an apparent lack of grocery stores anywhere near campus. Opening a small grocery store or a deli in Lower Place Riel would provide students with healthy, accessible food.
There are already some healthy and accessible food services for students, such as the USSU Food Centre, which offers a weekly fresh-food market to students, providing access to affordable produce, but if the U of S wants to go above and beyond to foster healthy lifestyles, opening a grocery store to supplement this program would be a step forward.
The university needs to seriously consider prioritizing the narrative of healthy eating by establishing a grocery store on campus. In the meantime, of course, I can only assume Lower Place Riel will still be bustling.
Graphic: Jaymie Stachyruk / Graphics Editor