Hunger in revered spaces: Exploring the impact of planning on the university campus food system in South Africa

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Abstract Summary
This exploratory study examines how campus planning and its spaces affect the food security of students. The study is conducted on the campus of the University of the Free State in South Africa and uses a mixed methods approach which includes an online survey, qualitative interviews and a site inspections. The data is used to determine the state of the campus food system as well as gauge respondents opinions on the subject of food access, availability and management. Traditionally a university campus is considered an axiom of sophistication and enlightenment. These principles also translate to the physical layout and appearance of the campus and services. For many societies universities have become a symbols of reverence and privilege and as such they are absolved from certain criticisms that might be found elsewhere in the built environment. A disconnect can occur between the needs of students and the campus offerings. Although the traditional blueprint has been extremely successful it should be adapted to adres the changing needs of new generation students in the South Africa. The University of the Free State (UFS) is such an example of changing needs and is located in one of the poorer regions of South Africa. As a result, the institution registers many students who come from vulnerable and marginalised communities. Poverty and food insecurity are directly linked and as a result, many students experience degrees of hunger while attempting to complete their studies. It is also assumed that this problem is not unique to the UFS and more widespread throughout the country. The problem is set to grow due to the increase in the cost of living which includes transport, accommodation, tuition fees and food. The circumstances first generation students find themselves is complex. For many a degree is seen as a means for the entire families to uplift themselves. This puts tremendous pressure and stress on students who are often just able to pay registration fees. The true cost of living is not always taken into consideration and students are forced to survive on a meagre daily budget. Many are unsure how they will find funds to continue from the one semester to the next one. Hunger becomes a reality and many experience it to certain degrees. Also, cheap, fast and unhealthy food at the student canteen is the only choice due to time, convenience and financial constraints. It should be realised that campus planning can help solve this problem. Planning should take into consideration all possible options for strengthening and accessing the local food system and introduce spatial alternatives and services not conventional to a campuses. Food planning as a sub-category of urban planning is especially relevant for citizens of the Global South and universities, as micro communities, can provide valuable lessons for planners as these institutions often function as incubators for new ideas.
Abstract ID :
ISO527
Submission Type
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PhD candidate
,
SACPLAN

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