The University of Sydney Union (USU) has permanently closed its only breakfast-specific food outlet, Cereal Lab.
The outlet previously sat next to the Footbridge Theatre, adjacent to Courtyard, occupying some of the USU’s most prime real estate. Most famous for the mould-covered breakfast cereal that filled its sign, Cereal Lab was a humble idea with unfortunate brand management.
USU President, Cole Scott-Curwood, explained to Honi that Cereal Lab was opened through a sponsorship in 2020. According to What’s New in Food Technology Manufacturing Magazine (real publication), the idea behind Cereal Lab was to “provide students with breakfast bowls and enable Kellogg’s to experiment with innovations”. Unfortunately, it was difficult to “provide” students with breakfast bowls when basic prices often leaned into the double digits.
History Honours student, Felix Faber, reached out to Honi with his concern about the closure.
“I went into the Holme Building looking for a bowl of Froot Loops. Unfortunately, as I soon found out [about the closure], the only thing on the menu for me that afternoon was a heaping bowl of disappointment… But I knew that Cereal Lab wouldn’t want me to cry because it was over, so I chose to smile because it happened.”
And it’s true; in mourning Cereal Lab, the heartbreak is not for what we lost, but for what could have been. We know that in Australia, at least one in seven uni students – likely more – will regularly skip a meal for financial reasons, creating immense disparities in wellbeing, health and academics. And while free or cheaper meals on campus have often been a USU election promise, rarely have they existed consistently outside of the electoral cycle.
Footbridge is a thoroughfare for undergrads. It’s easy to presume that Cereal Lab would have hundreds of students pass by each day, and, statistically speaking, many of them would likely be without breakfast. If Kellogg’s really wanted to reach a large number of people with their cereal, and if the USU wanted to uphold its role as a “student union”, why not provide cereal for free? The issue with Cereal Lab was not a lack of interest in a specialty breakfast spot, but the price of its goods.
Scott-Curwood noted that this gap has been filled by the SRC and USU’s joint free food venture, FoodHub, which provides students with non-perishables and is open from 10am-2pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, in level 4 of the Wentworth Building.
“Cereal lovers need not despair, the SRC x USU Foodhub is currently stocking cereal, milk, and many other food items”, he told Honi. While the FoodHub is a welcome and crucial service, the location – tucked away in Wentworth – is out of the way from where most students frequent, meaning most don’t know of its existence. It also unfortunately does not provide single serve meals for people on the way to class. This is not to place extensive criticism on the Foodhub, but in order to operate at their best, such services also need to be proactive in reaching students. It’s not always enough to stock boxes of cereal in the back of one of the University’s least frequented buildings – you should also provide people with a pre-class feed as they get off the bus.
The USU is considering new uses for the space once occupied by Cereal Lab. Perhaps they’ll consider using it to provide free breakfast for all.