It’s not that easy eating green

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As an international student, one of the most striking differences between home and the United Kingdom has been the food. This discrepancy is far from positive. In fact, many question the mere existence of vegetables in the United Kingdom. Vegetables are very hard to find in the dining hall or at late night eateries. The Bubble is devoid of convenient healthy options for busy students—especially students with special dietary requirements or a limited budget.

The only healthy options in St Andrews can be found either in grocery stores, as ingredients for meals that require elaborate preparation (ain’t nobody got time for that), or in a scant array of small shops that close far too early. Even the library café closes at 8pm—before many students even make it to the library. If the library café was open 24 hours (or at least until 10), not only would far more revenue would be generated, but students would be far happier and more likely to survive the night. While it may appear that students have deserted the streets after 8pm, we are actually holed up studying somewhere—and would love a snack. Even though complaining about shop hours in a small town may sound trite, one must remember that St Andrews is a town filled with nocturnal students. While studying at 2am, having Dervish, Courtyard and Empire as the only late-night options is quite deleterious to one’s waistline, immune system and overall health.

Unfortunately, the few traditional wellness shops in St Andrews are not congruent with the student lifestyle. Not only do they close at the unreasonable hour of 5pm, but most of them only stock bizarre supplements, expensive nuts and packaged food that most students cannot afford.

As a student in a catered hall, one would think that buying fruits and vegetables would be redundant—right? Sadly, this is not the case. People dedicated to leading healthy lifestyles, as well as those with chosen dietary restrictions – such as pescetarians, vegetarians and vegans – have trouble in a catered hall. If one is ten minutes late to dinner the already dismal salad bar has virtually disappeared—leaving one with a plate of beans and disappointment. If I am lucky enough to make it to dinner, the options for vegetarians usually consist of far loaded with fatty carbohydrates or greasy cheese. Picking at my dinner plate results in a lingering hunger that leads to unnecessary snacking and far too much cash being spent on healthier meals elsewhere.

Health should be of the utmost importance to students. While spending outlandish amounts on organic crackers is unnecessary, spending a little bit extra on vegetables and fruit is worth it in the long run. Eating nutritiously and sleeping allow one to study harder and ward off cold and flu viruses, which are widespread in this cold Scottish town.

The fundamental problem regarding health food in St Andrews as a whole isn’t necessarily the presence of the food—rather, it’s the availability and the price. If cheap, healthy foods were made available to students past dinnertime, study sessions would become far more tolerable. Sustain the Belly, a St Andrews student enterprise, is a project that aims to solve this problem. Their project plans to spread awareness of the healthy food in St Andrews by serving up healthy food such as smoothies, salads and other delicious items past 5pm.

Our cherished Bubble is small, but St Andrews still needs to meet the nutritional needs for the sake of student health. Therefore, it is essential for health conscious students to band together and advocate for more vegetables and fruit not only from the dining hall—but also within the St Andrews town center. If you or anyone you know are passionate about making St Andrews healthier, contact me at smi2@st-andrews.ac.uk, so we can join together and work to change the preconception of unhealthy Scottish food.

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