Durham students isolating in college say they went ‘six days’ without a hot meal

One student says they were given ‘parcels filled with junk food’

Students currently self-isolating in Durham colleges have said they were left without a hot meal for six days, forcing them to go to bed hungry.

One student, who spoke on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, said that she had been given food parcels which were “filled with junk food”. She told the show she had tested positive for coronavirus just days after arriving at Durham, and that rules forbidding them from ordering food in meant that they were relying solely on the college-provided boxes.

The student also described to the programme how the boxes provided by college lacked fresh and healthy foods, and listed their contents to include Pot Noodles, ready meals, crisps and chocolate bars. She also told how the first food parcel contained only three apples, and the subsequent box, meant to last students eleven days, contained no fruit at all.

She noted: “We are in a catered college, so normally you would be given hot meals every day that would be cooked for us,” adding: “We have a microwave, a kettle and a toaster, and that is it.”

Durham University have since responded to these claims, apologising to students and confirming that the university has now introduced a new hot food regime to replace the food boxes. Jeremy Cook, Durham’s pro vice-chancellor for student experience, said: “We are really very sorry to those students who feel they haven’t been given sufficient or healthy food.

“We have acted fast, we have listened to our students, recognised their concerns. We have quickly added more staff for a revised operation so we can now deliver hot food from the kitchen.”

In response to claims that students went without hot meals for six days, he said that though this may have been the case for some, for the majority of students, it was closer to 24-48 hours. He said: “Initially we used food boxes because the challenge of delivering hot food is a significant operation. We are now doing that, but it took us a while to think about how to do it.

“It was a lesson we have learned – we thought the food boxes would be sufficient. It’s about learning, adapting. In this case we will admit we probably should have thought better and gone straight to hot food.”

According to the most recent figures shared by Durham University, which are up to date as of Wednesday, 251 students and five members of staff have tested positive for coronavirus since the beginning of term. This includes “around” 50 cases each at Collingwood and St Mary’s.

Yesterday, the university announced that students living in at both of these colleges are to remain on campus for the next seven days, even if they are not currently self-isolating or have not tested positive for the virus. This comes as a result of cases rising particularly sharply at these two colleges, with one in 10 at Collingwood and one in six at St Mary’s currently testing positive.

Are you currently self-isolating in one of Durham’s colleges? We would love to hear about your experience – drop us a message on Instagram

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