At Elon University’s dining halls you can get anything from brazed pork chops, to baked tilapia, to a chocolate peanut butter quesadilla. Elon’s dining services are pretty highly touted, ranking as high as 68th in the country as recently as 2014 and receiving four stars by various college ranking agencies. However, eating healthy on campus can be difficult for some. Every student has heard of the “Freshman 15,” referring to weight gain that many freshmen go through.
Walking into Colonnades or Lakeside, you can look around and see pizza, pastas, stir-fry, and ice cream machines. Results of a recent poll by the International Food Information Council Foundation show American adults are trying and failing to fit in the average government-recommended 4.5 to 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, a struggle that’s familiar to college students. In fact, many students aren’t even eating one serving of fruits or vegetables in a day, according to a study of student eating habits published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior last August.
Many students at Elon, and across the country, claim that their meal plans provided by the school have a limited choice in any sort of healthy alternatives. “I believe that Elon’s food options are very good, but I think we need a larger variety of foods,” said Junior Sandy Satullo. He also said that some nights are better than others, “they’ll have fish and broccoli as a side, and then the very next day have fried chicken and mac and cheese with nothing in between.” Satullo also mentioned when there is no real alternative, the “floppy” salad bars are not enticing at all.
In the same study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior that was previously mentioned, it showed that the recommendation of no more than 30 percent of calories from fat a week was surpassed by both males and females. One blame that is put on the universities is that they think of food and meal plans as a way to make money, rather than to improve the health of students or create healthy eating habits. The schools can charge the students a large sum of money, which they then turn to Sodexo or Aramark for food bundles for a cheaper price tag.
Elon students have previously spoken out about their wishes for healthier options. Satullo said, “We need some more healthier options, I know Freshii offers a good variety, but I think we can step it up a little bit in that category of greens, and maybe expand on Green World a little bit.” In February 2014, Elon converted a steakhouse into Green World. Green World at 1889 is a vegan and vegetarian friendly place to eat on campus, as well as offering gluten-free alternatives to those who need or prefer them. It was created to appease the rising demand of more heath conscious options on campus.
At the same time, there are students who do not really care too much about healthy eating and would not necessarily want some of their favorite locations to be transformed into vegan establishments, like Green World. Variety is key when it comes to making sure you meet the needs of every student. An average student still needs to have choices to make; if they want to have a healthier meal or they do not care what they eat one day, the choice has to be there. A campus should not be full of Green Worlds or a bunch of Chick-fil-a chains. Balance is still a staple in a healthy diet and a campus dining services map should be able to illustrate that.