Courtesy of American Heart Association
By Jessica Fetrow
In a movement created by the American Heart Association, November is formally recognized as “Eat Smart Month” in an effort to promote long time healthy eating and cultivate healthy lifestyles. The “Eat Smart Month” program is organized in partnership with the “Healthy for Good” campaign, which “is a movement of everyday people everywhere who are committing to improve their health in simple, innovative and sustainable ways” (American Heart Association). The celebration of “Eat Smart Month” makes way for an open dialogue on nutrition and its accessibility, particularly among college students and young adults nationwide.
A 2005 study concluded that young adults in their freshman year of college are at a “critical risk” for weight gain, finding that one in four college freshmen gain at least ten pounds in their first year of college. The study found that students who ate fewer fruits and vegetables, fattier foods, and slept fewer hours at night gained more weight than students who ate a more balanced diet and slept for more hours. The adjustment to on-campus living, as well as late night binge eating and easily accessible “junk” food in proximity to college campuses, add an additional responsibility to college students’ agendas.
The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) daily recommendations have fluctuated greatly over the past two decades. However, the current USDA recommendations vary among different genders, ages, and activity levels. Generally, the USDA suggest a diet of less than 2,000 calories a day, with women aged 19 to 30 eating three to five servings of grains, and a half servings of protein, three servings of dairy, and four and a half servings of fruits and vegetables daily. The recommended daily intake for men aged 19 to 30 includes four to eight servings of grains, six and a half servings of protein, three servings of dairy, and five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Foods commonly found in the diets of college students, such as foods heavy in caffeine, fats, carbohydrates, processed meats, and sodium, are often convenient and more accessible to college students, straying from the USDA’s daily recommended intake.
Students at Catholic University have access to various locations on campus that accept one of the several meal plans through the school’s dining services, including Starbucks, the Food Court, the Student Restaurant, the Law School Cafe, the P.O.D. and Murphy’s Grill. The University hosts Dining Services Advisory Board meetings, the most recent of these held on November 12th, in partnership with Catholic’s Student Government Association to receive feedback from students on the University’s dining services. Aramark, Catholic University’s food provider, has partnered with the American Heart Association in their “Healthy for Life” Campaign in an effort to provide healthier options for Catholic University students.
Even with the variety of options on campus, students still struggle with finding sufficient healthy options.
“I feel like a little more could be done,” said freshman criminology major Jennie Catts. “I feel that there are healthy options, but they are not as easily available as other choices and it is hard sometimes to find healthy options. I think it’s hard [to maintain a healthy diet] because unhealthy options are so easy to get and all of us are on the move a lot.”
While on-campus dining is easily accessible to students, many off-campus students face difficulty finding affordable meal options, particularly students who are adjusting from on-campus living to off-campus living.
“The myriad of restaurants along Monroe Street [Chipotle, Brookland Pint, Potbelly’s, etc.) makes food accessible but not always economically sensible nor sustainable,” said junior politics major Michael Mohr-Ramirez. “With Giant being a metro stop away, students who do not have cars on campus are often left having to take multiple trips so they can get a week’s worth of groceries. While this is a less costly option than the on-campus meal plans, the inconvenience of constant metro-ing often offsets the price of a semester’s meal plan at the Pryz.”
Mohr-Ramirez is not alone in this point of view. Junior nursing major Madeline Aghajanian agrees with Mohr-Ramirez’s opinion, but raises issue more so with accessibility than affordability.
“I think finding food off-campus is harder [than living on campus] because it is harder to find time to go to the store,” Aghajanian said. “But I like it better because I can buy and make the food that I want easier than when living on-campus.”
In order to fight this struggle of finding nutritious food at an affordable cost, Campus Ministry is instituting a permanent food pantry to combat food insecurity in the Catholic University community. After a series of trial runs throughout this semester, a permanent food pantry will be established in the Spring 2020 semester, providing a variety of nutritious, free food to students, even without a meal plan.
In an interview with The Tower in September 2019, Kara Feidelseit of Campus Ministry emphasized the importance of food security and adequate resources to food on campus.
“Food insecurity is different than to be starving,” Feidelseit said. “It is about having inadequate access to nutritious food. You are not eating enough during the day, and when you do eat, it may be cheap non-nutritious food.” Information on health and wellness within Catholic University’s dining services can be found on the Dining Services website, as well as through the campus dietician. Further information on the “Eat Smart Month” and “Healthy for Good” campaigns can be found on the American Heart Association’s website.