Oxford University spends £12000 on making College menus more diverse

Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Last month Baroness Royall, a Labour peer, said she wants to “change the culture” of her college to make sure it is “welcoming for all”.She told how after receiving a complaint from a first-year student about an octopus terrine dish, she instructed Somerville’s catering staff to replace it with a less adventurous alternative.Baroness Royall, the former Labour leader in the House of Lords, revealed the move in a blog post last month, titled “I am determined to move fast on widening access to Somerville”, which was published on the College’s website.“One of our students told me of her bemusement at being served an octopus terrine at the Freshers’ Dinner,” she wrote. “I’m sure the cephalopod dish was delicious, but it might not be quite right for everyone. I have asked our catering colleagues to ensure that the first dinner at the beginning of term features dishes everyone is comfortable with.”Some Oxford colleges have removed formal hall altogether in recent years in a bid to become more inclusive, in 2014 Wadham College made the decision to replace it with a termly “guest night”.An Oxford University spokesman said: “Eating together in college has always been a really important part of the Oxford experience for students and we want everyone to be fully involved. “Personal history and culture can be big factors in the kind of food and dining that individuals most enjoy.“That’s why college chefs, food service staff and bursars are working with experts and students on this exciting project, which will help us understand how better to support our communities so everyone can enjoy dining here.” Baroness Jan Royall, head of Somerville, demanded that octopus is removed from the menu  Baroness Jan Royall, head of Somerville, demanded that octopus is removed from the menu  Oxford University has spent £12,000 on making College menus more diverse, it has emerged.Catering staff will be given training and a suite of resources to help them ensure their menus are sufficiently “inclusive” for students.The move comes after Baroness Jan Royall, head of Somerville, demanded that octopus is removed from the menu as part of a drive to make disadvantaged students feel more “comfortable”. The inclusive catering project will be spearheaded by domestic bursars from across Oxford’s colleges. They have formed a new working group to oversee the project, which has been awarded £12,000 from the university’s Diversity Fund.The money will be spent on developing resources and a training programme for kitchen staff, and a series of student focus groups have been arranged with the assistance of a consultancy firm. It is hoped that re-designing College menus will better cater to the tastes of students and staff from black or minority ethnic (BME) or international backgrounds, religious groups, or those who have dietary requirements based on ethical or health grounds.Ellie Macdonald, vice president for welfare and equal opportunities at Oxford’s student union, welcomed the initiative, saying: “It is great to see this happening.It’s vital that catering options reflect the diverse nature of the student body here at Oxford.” However, Mohamed Iman, a third year History student at Oxford said that it is a “wasteful” use of £12,000.“Colleges differ so much that this scheme, whilst well meaning, is most likely to lead to the simple conclusion that halal, kosher and other dietary requirements aren’t being met in some places and are in others,” he said.  Oxford’s Diversity Fund spends £70,000 each year on initiatives aimed at “fostering an inclusive culture which promotes equality, values diversity and maintains a working, learning and social environment in which the rights and dignity of all its staff and students are respected”.

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