Eating on campus does not promote a healthy relationship with food

By Peyton Voorheis
Staff Writer

In recent years, concern for healthy eating habits has been on the rise, particularly among college students.

Any time a person’s routine changes, it can lead to further changes in eating habits. This is extremely relevant to college students and can play out in different ways for many students across campuses in America.

The opportunities for eating around campus have various pros and cons. Cafeteria style dining, while one of the most convenient and practical options financially, has both health and social elements at play.

While healthier foods are available in Antonian Hall, such as at the salad bar, getting a balanced meal can be a challenge to students who have never had to do this for themselves.

There are also healthier options offered at Clean Plate, although it is preferred by staff that that area remain only for students with allergies.

Additionally, with any “all you can eat” approach to dining, such as in the case of a meal swipe program, it can appear that eating more food is the most economic decision, when in actuality, this is a false and unhealthy perception.

From a psychological perspective, there can also be anxiety associated with the social dynamics of a cafeteria environment. For example, students may feel anxious to eat alone or encounter strangers, or they may feel overwhelmed by the amount of people or volume.

One way students may choose to avoid that situation is by utilizing Pub dining, although in the case of the majority of the meal plans offered, it would not be possible to eat there exclusively.

The meals available there do not have as many healthy options, and by operating based on individual price rather than single swipes, it follows that most items containing produce will be more expensive.

While not unique to Franciscan University, those are simply a few examples of generic dietary struggles that exist on college campuses, ours included.

There are many strategies that campus dining systems will employ to foster healthier cultures around food. This includes having dieticians available for students to confer with, as well as increasing awareness and support about healthy eating habits and attitudes.

While there are accommodations for students’ mental health, as well as support in fitness, such strategies have yet to be employed in dining areas. However, as mental health outreach grows, this could be changing.

This past spring, there was a panel discussing how to support our brothers and sisters with eating disorders.

Parkhurst dining has a dietician and nutritionist in their employ, and with the newly built office being easier for students to access, it’s possible that more resources for students are forthcoming within Antonian Hall.

However, I think there is another issue at play, which is not up to the administration to fix. In my experience, the overall attitude towards the dining available on campus is negative, to the point of perhaps becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This ultimately creates a negative attitude towards the food options available, and it starts out most students’ relationship with the dining available on a negative note simply due to expectations rather than reality.

The majority of the problems that exist when it comes to attitudes toward food on campus stem from overarching problems in how campus dining is set up across America.

All that is lacking is the accommodations many other schools are implementing to counteract these negative effects. This allows for a road map in what can change to improve students’ eating habits and relationships with food on campus.

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