Undergraduate students at Keble College have launched a campaign to lower the cost of hall meals. They claim that the price of a standard dinner meal has almost doubled since last year, rising from £3.80 to £6.75 and that two course dinners have been made mandatory. 

Some of those affected by the rises have written an open letter of their concerns, as well as asking fellow students to boycott hall food until college administration agrees to reduce food prices to what they had been previously, as well as giving students the option to opt out of extras such as desserts.

The open letter has so far been signed by over 100 students. It says that meal prices were advertised at a lower rate than reality, which “put many students at a disadvantage and has put a burden on those students who have budgeted in accordance with the cheaper food prices advertised.”

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After pressure from students, Keble has since decided to remove dessert from the compulsory meal, reducing the price to £4.75. The college has also agreed to discuss further with the JCR about prices. 

Individual student rooms at Keble do not have cooking facilities, which makes hall a primary food option.

Keble College told Cherwell that “the suggestion that we have materially increased food prices is simply wrong”. They stated that the average cost of a lunch in 2019/2020 was £4.00, and the average cost of a three-course dinner was £7.80.

They continued: “Students also have access to our café in the H B Allen Centre where freshly made Paninis are £2.40, Baguettes £2.50  and Pizza Margherita, 12“ is £5.00, with extra toppings at £0.40.”

Theo Sergiou, a second year PPE student at Keble, told Cherwell that the boycott is a “financial necessity” and says that Oxford alumni have gotten in touch with their support. The boycott is planned to continue until Monday.

Sergiou said: “If the local independent kebab house can survive COVID without burdening students, college should have no reason to rely on their students to relieve them of their difficulties…We do not think college is doing this on purpose, nor do I believe they are conscious of their exclusion, however, this doesn’t change the effect it is having.”

He said the college explained the price increase with the JCR’s request last year to source food more sustainably.

Keble College told Cherwell: “The Covid crisis has meant we’ve had to change radically the way we prepare and deliver meals in order to protect staff and students. This has involved significant additional costs which are not reflected in meal charges.  On top of this, food costs are continuing to rise.  The global pandemic has impacted demand, supply and pricing across many commodities.

“Costs have been affected by, among other factors: Turbulent currencies, Product shortages, High price increases, Labour shortages, Weather conditions (a very hot and dry summer globally, impacting on harvests), Avian flu (pushing prices on poultry and egg, when flocks have to be culled), Salmon anaemia, and African Swine Fever in pigs from Germany (Europe’s largest pork producer).”

Keble also directed Cherwell to an article by The Tab which praises Keble’s food provisions to quarantining students, based on a student’s TikToks of her meal deliveries, in which the student compliments her roast chicken and cheesecake. 

Image credit: David Iliff/ Wikimedia Commons