By Emily Prendergast
Catholic University recently hired a new dietitian, Rachel Silverman, for the 2018-2019 academic year. Silverman, who works part-time in the Health Center located in the Kane Fitness Center, counsels students on healthy eating habits and works alongside the school to improve the dining experience at the university. Her main duty is meeting with students who want to enhance their diet on a meal plan or need help with their unique dietary needs.
“I am a clinical dietitian but I see any kind of student or patient that comes in with food allergies, disease, or any kind of eating disorders,” Silverman said. “Any student with a kind of medical condition that requires dietary intervention can come see me.”
In previous years, the university has had a dietitian that many students were not aware of. One of Silverman’s goals of the year is to make students on campus more familiar with the program to become open and excited to meet with a dietitian for any reason.
Dietary counseling at Catholic University is a free service that is offered to all students and has previously only been communicated through word of mouth among friends. Eating healthy and balanced meals at school can be difficult, especially for first year students who are navigating the cafeteria for the first time on an unlimited meal plan. Although first and second year students are bound to a meal plan, Silverman explains that there are healthy options available if the student is willing to put in the effort to plan out meals and combine foods from different stations.
“I always say, college is the first time that you’re eating on your own, and sometimes it helps to have a little guidance,” Silverman said. “I think it’s helpful for students to be able to speak to somebody who has the background in food and nutrition to be able to make healthier choices on campus.”
The university’s new dietitian reports to Aramark, the company that supplies the food catered to the dining hall, and is contracted through Dietitians on Demand that places dietitians in hospitals and universities. Silverman works with Catholic University’s food and nutrition services to improve the way that students eat on campus.
“My goal is to create more of a user-friendly pryzbyla, meaning that there is more labeling for students,” Silverman said while explaining her objectives for her first year working with Catholic University.
She stated that her long term goal is to create and implement menus for the dining hall that students can take and use to cater towards their dietary needs. Some of these menus would include gluten free, vegetarian, or healthy meal alternatives that would make it easier for students to create meals for themselves and enjoy their food. Silverman also said that she would like to help the student restaurant and food court to be more transparent with the nutrition facts with labeling so that students will have more knowledge in what they are consuming daily.
Many students think that the dining options could be improved in regards to the nutritional value, taste, and variety. When asked about what her opinions on the current food that is available to students, the health expert commented that the meals that are offered are customizable and that there are healthy options.
“I think that with any facility that goes through a big food service corporation, there is always going to be a mix of different foods that are on campus. I think that there are 100% healthy options that can be had [in the Pryzbyla Center] between the student restaurant, the food court, and Murphy’s Grill. I also think that with that comes the hamburgers and the pizzas and things that maybe are not as great,” Silverman said.
She also explained that meal plans fall apart and become much more difficult when the dining halls become busy during peak times because the student will start to feel overwhelmed and end up choosing the easiest and fastest option instead of taking the time to make a balanced meal.
When Silverman meets with students she visits cua.campusdish.com to navigate the menu for the week and to pick out items from the menu that are more healthful that can be paired together in order to create a balanced plate. She explained that the Pryzbyla Center is fairly small facility for a university, so the new dining hall that is underway will bring more variety and hopefully new stations for students to choose from.
“I feel like there needs to be more healthy options at the Student Restaurant. In the new building, I hope that there will be better options besides salad. I would like to see more fruit and better yogurt and more variety,” said Jacqueline Markisz, a sophomore at Catholic University. “I hope that the new dining hall will offer more stations because of the bigger space but I’m not sure if it will actually happen. I would see a dietitian on campus, now that I know that we have one on campus so that she can help me navigate the Pryz and be more aware of my calories and the nutritional value of the food that I am eating.”