Food at the Campus

Students’ and staff attitudes towards vended food in universities have been a major challenge in most universities. This has been brought by the observation that the number of food vendors in these institutions usually doesn’t satisfy the demand and it has not been possible to improve the sales of food within campuses due to low demand for them. This paper presents a research into factors that result into negative attitudes towards food vended in universities by providing an account of studies from various literature materials. This has been attributed to the complaints raised by food vendors in various universities regarding the negative attitude that students and staff have towards the food sold at most campuses. An example of a university where students and staff attitudes towards food products sold on campus is the University of Ghana. It has also been observed that most students who reside in the dormitories of this University have resorted to other forms of getting food such as going to off-campus restaurants to buy food.

As a result, most food vendors in a number of universities have raised the need to address the problem by finding the factors that contribute to this condition. The study is a primary research in which staff and students of the university are interviewed to explain the conditions that result into low spirit towards food sold by vendors at their university. The findings of the research are then compared with those presented by the literature review to find out if there is any relationship. This will result into a conclusion regarding the reasons why most students and staff prefer to cook their own meals or come to school with packed meals.

Campus nutrition is an important factor that has been considered significant for the welfare of students and staff during academic periods on campus. As a result, most universities have put measures to ensure that students and staff are provided with an adequate supply of food products by creating restaurants where students can eat as well as allocating some parts of buildings where food can be sold to students in small quantities (Okyere, 2001). Despite these efforts, there is a lack of food choices since the types of foods sold by vendors are of regular kinds and they do not usually vary their supplies.

However, there are a number of options available to students while they reside on campus. Students and staff are allowed to cook their favorite food in the university dormitories. Those who commute from home such as staff are also allowed to carry packed food to their offices. The option of vending food on campus ensures that students are able to get fast services in terms of food availability at any time of the day and reduce time spent on other activities such as cooking in the dormitories or the effort of carrying packed food to the university. Most university administrations have therefore contracted vendors of food products of various kinds such as drinks, snacks and raw food that can be bought by students and cooked. Most universities have also set aside sections of their premises to be used by vendors to sell food products to students (Ogunnika, 2001).

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There are various kinds of food products sold by vendors in these shops such as drinks, fruits and such food as bread, hamburgers, pizzas, bread sticks, vegetables and fries. There are also people, who supply food products that are sold in dining halls of Universities such as meat, vegetables, eggs, kebabs, sandwiches, milk and other beverages (Lindgreen, Hingley & Vanhamme, 2009). The role of food vendors in Universities is considered significant for meeting nutritional needs of most people especially students who reside in dormitories while relieving the students of the burden of cooking or outsourcing food from off-campus restaurants thus saving their time. Other customers of the vendors include universities` employees who live off-campus and can use the products sold by food vendors to meet their nutritional needs during lunch hours.

Despite the significance of the role of food vendors in Universities, it has been observed that most students and staff do not buy food products from these vendors. For instance, in the University of Ghana, vendors of food products have complained that students are not willing to buy food products they sell such as bread, milk and fruits. As a result, most vendors have complained that their businesses are not achieving their target profits and most perishable goods get spoilt before they are bought (Katz, 2011). This has resulted from the attitudes of students and staff towards food sold by the vendors and most students and staff have been observed to go off-campus to buy food products.

In addition, staff has also shown the dislike for food sold by the vendors and it has been observed that some employees opt to carry food from their homes to campus. For example, employees of the University of Ghana have shown lack of interest in food sold by vendors and most of them either go to eat in hotels, off-campus restaurants or carry packed food to the offices. As a result, it has been difficult for students and employees to attend lectures and sports activities because they spend most of their time looking for alternative means of meeting their nutritional needs rather than obtaining food from the vendors. This is because most students spend time allocated for activities, such as studies or sports, looking for food sold in other places such as off-campus restaurants rather than shops on campus.

Most university administrations have put efforts to create a positive attitude among students and staff towards food sold at universities for the purpose of minimizing time spent on other activities; however, the effort has not been successful. This has led to the need to find the reason why there is usually negative attitude towards food sold at some universities (Dussourd, 2006). This involves an investigation of the factors that have resulted into the negative attitude of students and staff towards food sold at universities. It also investigates the reason why the number of vendors of food products in universities has not been high enough in some universities despite a high number of students in those universities. This explains the reasons why some vendors have complained they are at a loss for supplying food products to universities despite a high number of students that can create demand for their products.

Factors that Contribute to Negative attitude towards food Sold at Universities

When students go to a university, they are usually not able to return to their homes on daily basis. That’s why they depend on meals provided by the Universities. However, most students have expressed their dislike for food sold at universities because of a number of reasons that have not been established (Bourlakis & Weightman, 2003). This has led to the need to identify the reason of the negative attitude towards food sold in these Universities. A number of reasons have been identified.

One of the reasons why there has been an attitude of dislike for the food sold at Universities is that some students believe that buying their own food and preparing it is less costly as compared with purchasing food products from vendors. This is because most students want to save their pocket money to sustain them until the end of semester but they believe if they purchase food from vendors, they would incur more expenses compared with buying the same products off-campus (Lusk, Roosen & Shogren, 2011). For instance, at the University of Pretoria, most students prefer to cook meals in their dormitories rather than buy food from a vendor on-campus. Likewise employees have expressed their dislike for food sold on campus because they believe that food is more expensive compared with food sold off-campus. They have therefore developed the attitude of trying to save their money by buying food from other places and not from those sold by vendors on campus.

Another reason why most students and staff have developed a negative attitude towards food sold on campus is that they believe that the food sold by vendors is of low quality. Most students have expressed an opinion that they are not satisfied when they buy food from the vendors. Furthermore, some students and staff have expressed their dissatisfaction with the quality of food sold by vendors on campus. This has been supported by the claim that they know their nutritional needs and tastes thus when they cook their own food, they are able to satisfy their nutritional needs unlike when they purchase food from vendors (Okyere, 2001). As a result, they feel discouraged and do not want to continue with the practice of buying food from vendors at universities.

Furthermore, it has been observed that students who live on campus are from different cultural backgrounds, thus it has not been possible for vendors to sell food products that meet their cultural needs. Thus, some students and staff may not get the food products they need from vendors who sell food products in the shops on campus. For instance, Makerere University in Uganda has students who come from various cultural backgrounds and it is difficult to sell food of a particular kind to the students. This has been mainly observed to affect international students. In order to meet their nutritional needs they have opted to purchase their preferred food from off-campus restaurants and keep it in their dormitories where they can use it in small amounts while they continue with learning processes. The higher the cultural diversity, the higher it has become for vendors to meet students` demands. Consequently most students have been disappointed with the products sold by vendors and they have opted to purchase food products from other places apart from the vending shops (Lusk, Roosen & Shogren, 2011). Some students have also associated food sold in canteens with low quality.

Furthermore, some students have associated their health complications with the use of food products sold by vendors at their universities. The same reaction has been observed among a number of university employees. For instance, some students have complained about stomach problems such as stomachache if they consume products sold by on-campus vendors. Other students have complained that the products sold by vendors contain a lot of preservatives that affect their teeth. Furthermore, a number of students have complained that food vendors at university do not operate in hygienic conditions and they do not follow hygienic procedures when handling food products they sell (Lindgreen, Hingley & Vanhamme, 2009). Thus they fear that if they buy products, they are likely to get ill. Thus, they have opted to use other products which they buy off-campus rather than buying food products sold by vendors.

Impacts of Negative attitudes of Students and Staff towards food sold on Campus

There are many impacts that have been observed as a result of negative attitudes of students and staff towards food products sold at most universities. One of the examples is that the operations of vending shops have been greatly affected. Food products sold in those shops have not been sold and perishable products such as vegetables have gone bad (Katz, 2011). The impact is that the sales have reduced and operators of these businesses have incurred heavy losses in comparison to their investments in these small scale businesses. This has resulted into unwillingness of some vendors to continue with their businesses on campus where students have negative attitude towards their products. Some vendors who had been initially operating at these universities wound up their operations and potential vendors have been discouraged from operating businesses at such universities.

Another impact brought by negative attitude towards products sold at universities is that students have opted to use other means of getting food products such as cooking in their dormitories and staff carrying food from their residential places. Staff has also opted for the habit of carrying packed food from their homes to their offices (Ogunnika, 2001). As a result there is a lot of garbage due to food materials and cooking activities in dormitories. It has been observed that some employees are distracted from the tasks they are performing due to the need to eat their packed meals at the wrong time. Sanitation has deteriorated as a result of cooking that takes place in dormitories. This has resulted into an environment that is congested and not suitable for studies. Furthermore, power consumption has increased and universities incur a lot of expenses in terms of electricity bills.

Another impact that has been observed as result of negative attitude towards food products sold at universities is that students have been spending a lot of time on other activities that are not related to learning such as cooking and moving in and out of the university to buy food to be cooked in their dormitories (Lusk, Roosen & Shogren, 2011). As a result, such students have found it difficult to participate in other activities, which can improve their health conditions, such as recreation and sports. Staff has also not been focused on meeting their professional goals because they set aside a lot of time for other activities such as organizing meals which does not result into improvements of their performance.

Methodology

The study involved a data collection with the aim of finding the factors that have contributed to negative attitude towards food sold at the University of Ghana. This is because there have been complaints about a reduced number of students and employees, who buy food products on campus, and it was necessary to find out the reason for this issue. Various stakeholders were involved in the study: students, university employees and causal workers, on campus vendors and the management of the university.

The total number of people involved in the study was 30 where 7 were students, 5 were vendors, 6 were casual workers, 5 were representatives of the senior management and the remaining 7 were other university employees. The age of participants involved in the research ranged between 18 and 57 years. Before the research was conducted permission from the university administration had been obtained and respondents had been selected from various categories such as students, senior management, casual workers and vendors of food products at the university. Respondents were then provided with questionnaires containing questions regarding the factors that contribute to the dislike among students and staff for the food products sold at the university.

Respondents who did not get the questionnaires were provided with mailed questions that they filled in and sent back as a reply. Those who could not be reached directly were interviewed on the phone; they were asked open-ended questions regarding factors that contribute to negative attitude towards food products sold at the university. They were also required to explain the impacts brought by negative attitude towards food products sold at the university. All respondents returned the questionnaires, including those who were sent e-mails with questionnaires. Thus, there was a 100% response to the questions asked. The responses were recorded and used for further analysis.

Facts

According to the results of the questionnaires, various factors were established as the reason for low demand for food products sold at the university. In addition, the impacts that result from negative attitude towards food sold at the university were identified. The results and the number of respondents for each contributing factor were recorded and tabulated as shown in the diagram below.

Reason for Negative attitude towards food products sold at the university

No. of responses

Vended food products are associated with high costs

10

The need for personal taste of prepared food

5

Cultural differences among staff and students

8

Association of prepared food with high nutritional value

7

Table 1. Reasons for Negative attitudes towards food sold at the University of Ghana

The impacts of negative attitude towards food products sold at the University of Ghana were tabulated as shown in the table below.

Impact

No of respondents

Low profitability of vending shops

11

Students spending more time on other activities rather than academic matters

4

Increased movement in and out of campus in search of food

9

Reduced number of vendors at the university

6

Table 2. Impacts of negative attitude towards food products sold at the University of Ghana

Analysis

The analysis involved a comparison of various contributing factors related to negative attitude towards food sold at the university to determine the factor that had the highest impact. It also involved determination of correlation between various factors, which affect the attitudes of students and staff towards various food products sold at the university, and the actual number of vendors at the university. According to the results of the comparison of the contributing factors the factor of high costs has the greatest impact on the attitude of students towards food products sold at the university.

The results show that the most significant impact is that there is low demand for the products sold by vendors and profitability of the vending shops has been greatly affected. Another significant impact is that operations of the shops have been reduced and only a few vendors have continued to operate at the university. Thus, the university administration needs to develop mechanisms of addressing factors that contribute to the negative attitude towards food products sold at the university before the condition reaches an uncontrollable level.

Conclusion

This study shows that the negative attitude towards food products sold on campus can paralyze academic activities on university campuses in a number of ways. This involves distraction of learners from concentrating on academics since they have to look for food products off-campus and this has a direct effect on their academic performance and attendance of lectures. Thus, administrators of universities need to develop initiatives that ensure the complaints raised by students in relation to food sold by vendors are addressed. The activities of vendors at universities should be regarded as an equally important university service and should be given the right consideration during policy formulation.

Among the actions that universities can take to show their concern for the needs of students and other university employees are to ensure vendors are allocated with facilities that enable them conduct their businesses comfortably while providing the right food products needed by students and to ensure that all complaints raised by students and staff regarding the nature of food sold by vendors are addressed. The University of Ghana is an example of a university where vending has not been successful due to the dislike for such food products among students and staff who form the greatest percentage of customers. Generally, a university must ensure an adequate supply of food products to meet the needs of students and staff who live on campus