Food and Drink Writer Emma Stephenson reviews whether the University of Birmingham’s ‘Meal Plan’ scheme needs some nutritional improvements
Many freshers opt to join the Meal Plan in conjunction with their accommodation fees. While this makes life easy by eliminating the need to cook, the options available are often unhealthy or generally poor quality, which I believe needs to change.
Firstly, we should review the options on The Vale: The Hungry Duck, JC’s, The Melt, and Infusion. While The Hungry Duck and JC’s serve better quality food, it cannot be denied that copious amounts of wedges or tortilla chips are far from a healthy, balanced diet. Therefore, these eateries lend themselves to be visited for perhaps a weekly taco or pie rather than a daily evening meal, leaving the rest of the week to the canteen-style Infusion. Infusion, whilst having good themed nights and the option of taking food home, is not without its faults: cold, dry burgers; questionably poor-quality meat; watery pasta; and generally stodgy meals; to name a few. Infusion does provide students with what is most probably their only source of vegetables but on the whole often leaves them longing for the days of school dinners.
Trying to use up Meal Plan money at the end of the week on pizza at The Melt can be pot luck. Wait times grow to up to an hour, and the quality of pizzas can be inconsistent in terms of cooking and thickness. This being said, The Melt’s breakfasts and sandwiches can be a useful quick bite; although in my experience the staff often refuse to make quesadillas.
However, Meal Plan does have many positives. The Library Café is a true gem of campus, with reasonable prices to rival Costa or Starbucks. Likewise, the Food Court’s variety of options suit all with Go Mex, Go Chicken, Go International, Wok Fresh and more. From interviewing first years on Meal Plan, a large number expressed a preference towards the lunch options on campus than the prospect of an evening meal on The Vale.
On the other hand, the student favourite of Joe’s Bar in The Guild stays open until 8pm with an eclectic menu which even features a section for vegans. Joe’s bar has friendly staff, quick service, and a menu ranging from salads to fried chicken – providing students with both affordable, healthy options and comfort food.
My advice to The Vale residents who are in a coma of Infusion spring rolls and rice, is to navigate Meal Plan to be a positive if only you venture all the options throughout the week. Try to diversify where you eat in order to make the most of all the places which accept Meal Plan, and order smart to get your veggies even if your fourth consecutive day of chips is tempting.