UCDSU launched its Commuter Breakfast two weeks ago: We asked students what they think

Image Credit: UCDSU Press Office

The UCD Students’ Union launched its Commuter Breakfast initiative in a move to alleviate the impact of lengthy commutes on student experience. The University Observer asked students how it has helped them.

On Tuesday, January 30th, UCDSU launched its Commuter Breakfast, keeping faithful to their promise to provide hundreds of free breakfasts for students on Tuesdays during this term. 

The initiative is a part of the Union's larger focus on student welfare and alleviating the difficulties caused by long commuting hours to the overall student experience. 

Indeed, in its 2023 Accommodation Report, UCDSU revealed that a considerable number of students feel that their student experience has been negatively impacted by their housing situation and their commute. In UCD alone, commutes can range from two hours to four hours daily for 4% of respondents. 20% of UCD students spend over two hours commuting which generates additional challenges to an already demanding college experience such as curtailed class time, limited opportunities to socialise through societies and clubs, and an overall lesser standard of well-being. The latter is a significant concern given recent reports of the quality of counseling services provided by the college that show constant backlogging. 

Stationed in the Atrium of the Old Student Centre in Café Brava, UCDSU Education Officer Sarah McGrath and UCDSU Campaigns and Engagements Officer Miranda Bauer watch and converse with students initially hesitant to help themselves to the food on offer. The choice of food and refreshments shows the amount of thought and care put into the initiative: high-protein Nomadic Oats, Fyffe’s bananas, and Kellogg’s cereal, tea, and coffee- food meant that is respectful of health guidelines to create a fulfilling and healthy breakfast. The space also allows for students to assemble and exchange thus creating a more fulfilling and supportive environment to share the commuter experience. 

In a statement, UCDSU Campaigns and Engagement Officer said: "Commuting has unfortunately become a mainstay of student life and it has the potential to hinder a student's ability to get what they need from their time in college. The Commuter Breakfasts initiative is our practical support to address the challenges faced by commuting students, as we continue to demand political solutions to ease the burden on our members."

UCDSU President Martha Ní Riada added: “UCDSU is inviting all students to take part and avail of the free breakfast if they need it. Ahead of Local and European elections, we also want as many students as possible to meet their SU team and share their views on commuting, wellbeing, student accommodation, or any other concerns they may have.”

Despite these good intentions, the commuter breakfast continues to inadvertently ostracize a small portion of students with dietary restrictions, whose alternative solutions are rather weak. Speaking to The University Observer a student with coeliac disease said: “Whilst a great initiative, commuters with specific dietary requirements cannot benefit from it.” They continued to say: “The lack of gluten-free items means that commuters with coeliac disease either have to pack their breakfast from home or eat quickly in their already time-crunched morning routine. Being left as an afterthought is a common experience for people with coeliac disease, and the commuter breakfast reiterates an experience of exclusion we coeliacs know all too well.”