The Unrecognised Victims of Coronavirus

A piece written for the Public Journalism module. 16/03/2020

The Unrecognised Victims of Coronavirus

Panic buying in the current epidemic is something that has almost become normalised, with pasta, rice, loo roll, and soap flying off the shelves. Having a surplus of stock is great for those who can get their hands on it, but little thought is given to those who can’t afford to panic-buy. Among many marginalised groups including the elderly and working-class, students are another group that has suffered silently throughout the epidemic, and the ones living away from home are mostly forgotten about.

For students, pasta is a staple element in almost every meal, a simple and cheap ingredient that is stereotyped with university life. Non-perishables are a great way of ensuring that you have enough food to last for weeks during self-isolation, but the hysteria has meant that they have been impossible to find – including the students’ staple.

This becomes a major problem for students who rely on the carb for survival. As most students have little money to their name and are desperate to keep out of their overdraft (another unfortunate but accurate stereotype) they can’t afford to buy Aldi’s entire supply when they see it, and rarely have the funds for fresh ingredients.

BIMM University student Ben (20) explains how his shopping habits have changed.

“I rely on a weekly budget for food shopping, so the lack of cheap pasta means I have to buy expensive perishables, and that’s a real struggle. It’s great for people who want to cut out carbs though.”
According to government food expenditures, the weekly food shop for one averages out to about £45. Students, on the other hand, spend a measly £21 on groceries per week, leaving very little funds for extras. The lack of cheap items forces students to spend more on fresh food and branded items, which can be over double the price of the supermarket’s own brands. For example, Asda’s smart price penne, or ‘pasta shapes’, costs 29p, whereas branded penne like Napoline, can cost up to £1.50, over 5 times the price.

A student’s palette is not only dependant on their budget, but their cooking skill and knowledge too. Levi Broomand, a Journalism student at the University of Sheffield, took to Twitter to air his grievances, asking, “Can everyone stop panic buying pasta pls. That’s all us uni students know how to make.” As the average student eats pasta 3-5 times a week, it can be rather difficult to think of anything else. And who can blame them? Most student recipes online involve pasta in one way or another, leaving little option for anything else that is as quick, easy, and delicious as a pasta dish.

Meanwhile, as the hype of COVID-19 continues, the pursuit of pasta has not yet died down. So the next time you’re thinking about buying all of ASDA’s pasta stock, please leave a couple of packets and a kind thought to those poor students out there!