Prue Leith gets behind hot meals initiative to support cash strapped students
TV host, Dame Prue Leith, has got behind one university’s initiative to provide a hot meal and social activities for students who are struggling with the cost of living crisis.
A tasty hot meal, a take home food pack and fun social activities have made Thursday evenings the favourite night of the week for students at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh
Thank Goodness It’s Thursday (TGIT), is a weekly initiative launched by Queen Margaret University to support its students with escalating costs. With over 270 people attending one recent event, the University knows that the support is not only popular with students, but necessary, particularly during the winter months.
Queen Margaret University has an excellent reputation for looking after the welfare of its students and creating a strong sense of community, so senior management and a team of dedicated staff volunteers were determined to relieve some of pressure over the winter months, particularly in the run up to the important exam period. The University’s Chancellor, Drame Prue Leith, has been so impressed with the University’s response, that she’s been keen to support TGIT and has even made a donation to help pay for some of the food which is being dished up on the night.
Run from the food court in the QMU campus in Musselburgh, TGIThursday gives people a hot meal, a meal pack with a recipe to cook at home, and an evening of social activities. Lecturers and professional services staff dish up at least one soup, one hot main dish and hot drinks to attendees, giving them options for different dietary requirements. The two-day meal packs distributed at TGIThursdays also come with a recipe card, walking people step-by-step through the preparation and cooking process with all the ingredients provided. The idea behind the recipe cards is to let students see how easy it can be to prepare a nutritious but cheap meal for several people.
Not only does TGIThursdays give students the chance to get a warm meal and help keep them from worrying about dinners over the weekend, it’s also a great opportunity for people to feel connected with their university community and enjoy time together in a warm space. Activities such as clothes swaps, bingo and raffles give students the opportunity to spend time with friends and classmates. And the faculty volunteers who organise TGIThursdays get the chance to spend more time with their students and really get to know them.
Of course, giving people a meal that is hot and nutritious is important, but it also gives them variety in their dinners that they might not be able to afford, or have the time to create, were they left to do it themselves.
Roisin McDonagh and Laura Griffin are both studying MSc Dietetics at Queen Margaret University. For them, the social element of TGIThursday is just as important as the food on offer.
Roisin said: “A big part of this is the social element. It’s nice to just come together with other people that we know and just get to spend some time with one another. Especially with the cost-of-living crisis at the moment, it makes such a difference to just not have to worry about what you’re going to eat for one day a week.”
And Laura said: “It’s great that the university supports us with this. None of the other universities that I know of have an event that’s quite like this one. It’s so good to feel like I attend a university that really cares about their students and understands us, understands what we're going through and really does what they can do to support us.
“It’s really important to us. It’s a nice, social space where we can just come here and chat with our friends and not worry about things for a while. The meal packs are also really helpful. That’s your lunch for a few days- it makes a real difference over the whole week coming from this one night.”
Simra Aslam and Grace Allan are both first year students studying the BA (Hons) Theatre and Film at Queen Margaret University. Living in the University’s self-catered flats on campus, they loved the first event so much that they’ve made a point of coming along every week.
"It’s so nice to come to TGIThursday. In my flat, I eat the same cheap food practically every night – a pasta dish – so I’ve really enjoyed the range of free food at TGIThursday. There’s always nice soup, a hot main dish and hot drinks. You never know what’s going to be on offer, so it’s a nice surprise. My favorite dish was the turkey tagine with couscous, and there’s always a vegan option. The University also makes up meal packs with a recipe card which we can take away on the night and use it to prepare a meal to share over the weekend. I don’t know how I did it, but I’ve sometimes managed to make the meal pack last me a whole week!"
“But, aside from the free food, I also like the chance to take part in the different activities. Making the Christmas decorations was the best.”
Grace said: “TGIThursday is so good. We are really lucky that QMU has made this available for students because some universities are not doing anything like this. We’ve enjoyed the food, but we also like coming along to join in the social activities like the crafting, the quiz and the games night. There’s a great community feel at the event and it’s really nice to get away from studying. We love TGIThursdays, so we are delighted that QMU has decided to extend the event over the exam time in December and into January 2023. It takes the pressure off and it’s something to look forward to.”
TGIThursday has been so well received by students, that it’s being extended into the new year. This will not only give students something to eat, but will help to strengthen the real sense of community at QMU and reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness as a result of the pandemic and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.
Dr Kat Lord-Watson, senior lecturer in Initial Teacher Education, and organiser of TGIT, said:
“TGIThursday has been very well-received, and although we’re sad it is needed, we are very happy that we’ve been able to help so many students. We have had some wonderful student feedback, with many of them telling us they look forward to Thursday night, as it's not only a chance to have a satisfying and filling hot meal for the week, but with the option to take any leftovers away for later, along with the food packs we provide, it helps them offset the cost of groceries.
“We've also had lovely comments about how TGIT helps them feel connected to their fellow students, staff, and our wider campus community. This is important, given a recent survey of our students showed the sense of loneliness and isolation they were experiencing as a result of the pandemic disruption. Knowing that we are having this impact is so encouraging to hear, and we hope we can continue to offer a space for students to feel connected and supported by QMU.”
Dame Prue Leith, Chancellor of Queen Margaret University, concluded: “Giving cash-strapped students good food and a good time is such a great initiative.
“QMU puts students at the heart of everything it does, and I am proud that the institution has created a socially engaging foodie event that helps contribute to our students’ overall sense of wellbeing during the cost of living crisis. What has been really inspiring is the team of staff volunteers who have emerged from all different areas of the University, who are serving food, cleaning tables, sourcing food for the meal packs and creating activities to entertain students. It certainly helps to re-enforce the sense of kindness, community and belonging we cherish at QMU. Bravo to TGIThursday!”
Notes to Editor
NOTES TO EDITOR
For further media information contact John Gillespie, Media Relations and Content Officer at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, E: firstname.lastname@example.org; and copy to E: email@example.com. M: 07711 011239.