Some organisations just love being the leaders, the trailblazers. When it comes to sustainable catering, University of Brighton is right up there.

Having worked with us to develop our university sustainability programme back in 2014, Brighton is now the first university to launch a campaign to cut sugar consumption. And what’s really exciting, is that in addition to targeting sugary drinks, Brighton is engaging in a range of activities and initiatives as part of its role in Brighton and Hove City Council’s Sugar Smart City campaign

Scientists at the university will be working on new ways to help people understand the need to cut back on sugar in order to avoid obesity and related conditions.

One key part of the programme, which will launch on 1 August, will be developing affordable, healthy and nutritious meals. Eating within a budget is critical for students.

Highlighting and promoting those healthier options is another crucial element of Brighton’s plan. So vending machines, which currently feature sugary drinks and snacks at eye level, will now carry healthier options in the most prominent spot.

Students will also be left in no doubt about what’s really in the worst offending drinks, as posters with graphics of teaspoons alongside the drinks will flag up the amount of sugar they contain.

The money raised from the levy will be invested in food education initiatives for students. Julie Barker, Director of Accommodation and Hospitality at Brighton, says that the current generation of students missed out on this during their school education and that universities need to take the opportunity to engage them now or risk creating a generation that never understands healthy eating and nutrition.

Julie added: “Obesity is a massive problem in the UK and evidence suggests that the time students spend at university, often away from home for the first time, is when life habits form and students are the parental and business force of the future.  This puts us in a great place to help drive the message and evidence just how we can make a real difference in influencing societal change in the future to reduce obesity and other sugar related conditions which, will have a positive impact on the future generation.”

Jamie Oliver who launched the campaign for a sugar tax in 2015, sent a message of support to the university and its 23,000 students:  “We’re facing a growing obesity crisis; with more than four million people in the UK diagnosed with type-2 diabetes, the need for action is more urgent than ever. Students of all ages need to be more aware of the dangers sugar consumption can have on our long-term health.”

The university’s Students’ Union is backing the campaign. Hayley Wood, president, said: “The fact that this initiative goes beyond awareness raising to include meaningful activities and skill development opportunities that support a healthy lifestyle is great news for our membership.”

Like Julie, we hope more universities, and indeed other foodservice operators more widley, will follow Brighton’s lead in helping young people make the right food choices.