Self-isolating students at Lancaster University charged £17.95 per day for food parcels
In an email sent to students, the uni offers a “daily package of three meals with a cold breakfast, cold lunch and an evening meal (to be heated by yourself).”
Sample menus include meals such as croissants, yoghurt and fruit for breakfast, sandwiches, wraps and salds with crisps and fruit for lunch, and pasta, casseroles and ccurries with a sweet treat and soft drink for dinner.
This is available to all self-isolating students living on the Bailrigg campus - there were 20 positive Covid-19 cases reported in on-campus students in the last week.
The Tab - a website covering youth and student culture - reported that by carrying out a quick pricing breakdown, whilst the initial cost for all of the ingredients in a day comes to roughly £13 (via Asda), this is the cost for a bulk purchase of everything needed, and the real cost per portion comes down to around £2.70.
Adding a nominal £3 delivery charge for orders under £25 means that the cost of this spread out over four days equated to around £4.
The Tab report said: "Using these calculations, it seems that Lancaster University is running these food boxes at a large profit, and if The Tab Lancaster were to use the above grocery basket to construct our own food boxes, and sell them for £17.95 per day, then we would be making a profit of around £60 per person, if they ordered four days’ worth of food boxes."
They also reported one first year student as saying: “I feel completely used, it’s hard enough being worried about getting Covid, let alone having to pay £17.95 a day to get three meals.
"It’s really hard to get food deliveries too. The whole thing is evidently a rip off but it would have helped if their meal plans were actually affordable.”
A petition has now been set up to raise awareness of the service.
Kyle Westrip, who started the petition, said: "Charging unacceptably high rates for food delivery will exacerbate the health impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, making those with symptoms less likely to isolate, and more likely to break the rules.
"It is also disadvantaging already vulnerable groups; many international students lack any cookware and will be forced to use this service, and many more have disabilities which prevent them from safely receiving online deliveries."
A student who contacted the Lancaster Guardian said: "This puts an undue burden on students and is extorting many who are stuck with no other option as food delivery slots across Lancashire are blocked up."
In the period from September 29 to October 5, the university received reports of positive Covid-19 test results from 20 students living in university accommodation, 26 students living in other accommodation in the Lancaster area, and three members of staff.
Lancaster University has around 3,500 staff members and typically welcomes around 15,000 new and continuing students.
A spokesman for Lancaster University said it was important to remember the delivery service offered fully cooked meals, rather than a box of ingredients.
Students are also free to use their own kitchens or other services if they prefer.
The spokesman said: "We recognise self-isolating can be a difficult and stressful time for our students. To make life a little easier we have provided an opt-in meal delivery service for any self-isolating students wishing to have fresh food prepared and cooked for them and delivered to their door.
"We are charging less than we would for our normal dining-in restaurant and café offer, despite additional costs of delivery and disposable containers.
"Students are not obliged to use this service and still have access to their own kitchens, alternative shopping and takeout food delivery services.
"The university has also provided students with information about suitable alternative sources of food including supermarket delivery and other local commercial outlets.
"The package consists of three meals per day that are prepared daily from fresh ingredients in our own kitchens. We have kept prices as low as we can without compromising on quality.
"Students choosing this service can have full confidence that they are eating food that has been prepared from locally sourced products – where possible – and all allergens and food intolerances are catered for.
"The meals are delivered to the student’s accommodation and social distancing procedures are carefully observed.
"The meal delivery service is an additional provision made available to support students that wish to have their meals provided to them in this way."