Paying for Health: The Meal Choices

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Kaetlyn Dembkoski
  Staff Writer

As college students, we are constantly tasked with juggling our lives; from homework and studying to attending social outings and maintaining stress levels, there are times where we neglect the rudimentary aspects of life.

We throw away sleep for better test grades, swap out physical activity for more study time, and even disregard social gatherings to ensure that we are thoroughly knowledgeable of the subjects at hand.

Among these basic necessities, there is one that triumphs over the others and ultimately decides how our bodies will function regardless of sleep, exercise, or sociability: how healthily we eat.

While at college, students are away from their families, something most of us do not experience before this time in our lives. Due to this, the chores and duties that we once took advantage of are now tasked to us, including feeding ourselves.

Colleges offer many options for eating on-campus, including well-known restaurant chains and buffet style cafeterias. However, in conjunction to both on and off campus, the issue of the word “health” in reference to these selections is questionable.

In terms of these options, they are primarily based upon two notions: the accessibility of the food as well as the convenience and quick pace necessary to deliver the goods to the students.

In these notions, the fast food chains cannot be considered under the ideal of health because they are meant to hold a specific menu by the company they work for; however, this does not disqualify them from the issue at hand.

The first notion of accessibility of the foods can be seen at the cafeterias based on the foods they are capable of serving. For example, fresher foods and farm-grown foods are much more difficult to get to campuses and thus not often relied upon; instead, we utilize packaged versions of such food.

While this is better for us than the fast food options, in the long run, we are still eating poorly. Even though we cannot expect home cooked meals to be provided to us daily, in a health-conscious decision, it would be most optimal to simply cut ties with these options and seek meals that we create ourselves.

Although, as aforementioned, not everyone has the time to make these meals and thus is forced to rely on the cafeteria and fast food selections provided for them.

The other notion that hinders students from receiving healthier food options is based upon the grounds of convenience and overall speed. By this, I mean to describe the fact that when it comes to the meals that we indulge in, we cannot always resort to the optimal options due to time-restraints. For example, at UNCG there are multiple “make-it-yourself” choices like pasta, salad, and sandwich dishes.

As I mentioned before, these choices are better for the students because they are able to see every single ingredient being added to the dish. While they’re better, though, it is not always the easiest for students to take part in. Since students have little time for themselves, finding time to wait for their food to be prepared and cooked prompts them more and more to simply put their own dish together out of the pre-made selections hastily.

This is also an issue when it comes to utilizing the healthier options on campus versus eating at one of the fast-food chains. Since the chains have a specific menu that they follow, it is not often that one can find a healthier choice amongst the hefty amount of grease and fat added to these menu items.

When these pieces of the issue are brought together, they can be placed under one overarching issue; this is the issue of cost which affects both the students as well as the campus. Cost defines whether or not students can afford to buy groceries and find the time to make their own food. When it comes to it, the decision becomes: eating versus not, since not everyone has an outlet for paying for the groceries and healthier options.

As for the campus, not only is it difficult to receive fresher foods or farm-grown foods because of location and accessibility to that resource, but it is also an issue of money. Many campuses, including UNCG, already have their work cut out for them when finding ways to accommodate students with dietary needs. To add to that list, a required necessity for the freshest food possible would eventually add up considerably and take a toll on the campus itself.

Does this mean that we cannot be provided with better options, though? Not necessarily. While we should not expect fully home-cooked meals to be served daily, that does not mean that we cannot ask for more choices to be provided to us that would be healthier options.

At UNCG, we have already received new stations within the cafeteria; as the students, we are the consumers. We can decide what would be best for us. If we decide we need healthier selections, what’s stopping us from achieving this?



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