Posted inColumns

Always Hungry: Self-Serve

Illustration by Marcelina Jagielka

Self-serve is the future of college food. For me it’s obvious: students are independent, rational beings and should be able to serve themselves at informal hall. Self-serve is simpler, more personal, and potentially more environmentally friendly. Here’s why every college should adopt it.

I applied to Hertford College partly because of the food. I heard it had the best vegan options and I have not been disappointed. The love affair started early: at the offer-holder day, we were presented with a full spread of afternoon tea, with half of it being vegan. Coconut cream for scones, eggless macarons: this was inventive vegan cooking, not just an afterthought of plain hummus sandwiches. I knew I had made the correct choice.

Hertford informal hall is also brilliant because of its range. Yes, vegan and meat options are available, but there is often also a vegetarian main, showing that it truly caters to all preferences. When I bring friends from other colleges, they are excited not just about the plethora of potential mains, but also about the quality of food on offer. There is never a soggy lasagne in sight at Hertford.

But what makes Hertford unique is the way we get our food. Walk in and grab a plate or a takeaway tub. Survey the allergies and content chart, which is infinitely helpful for determining what to avoid as a vegan. Then, help yourself. This is the game-changer. At Hertford, we serve ourselves. We can choose what, and how much food we want on a daily basis. Take the other day, for example. I was hungry (what a surprise!) and so I had a sizeable scoop of coconut rice, topped with a warmly-spiced chickpea curry, a scattering of sweetcorn, and a clump of red cabbage and poppyseed slaw. It was varied, interesting, and I got to choose it.

Having been to other colleges, where hall staff plate your meal, I have to argue that self-serve is simply superior. I eat a substantial amount of food, and the portions I received at other colleges would not be sufficient for my everyday meals. At Hertford, I can pile on the potatoes and stack the tofu to ensure I’m getting what I need. At other colleges, I would probably have to supplement my meals, which defeats the cost-effectiveness of eating in hall.

There is also an ecological benefit to self-serve. Students only take what they need, preventing excessive amounts of food waste. It caters to all appetites and precludes the difficulty of judging people’s needs. In going to other colleges, I noticed a disparity between the portion I get given and that of a 6-foot man. Admittedly, the service staff don’t know me and don’t know my appetite, but the difference is stark. Self-serve enables all to eat as they wish and is definitely the way forward.

Self-serve provides the option for individuals to determine their portion size and what meal they fancy. It’s easier, freeing, and more ecological. I would love to see more colleges adopt this system: all students would reap the benefits.