Today: Jul 16, 2024

We are (in control of) what we eat

CHRISTIAN CARRIONSpecial to the Southern News
I love hearing about the things my friends did over the summer. Some people went hiking, some went on vacation to other states or countries, and some just worked and made money. Everyone had fun, and everyone enjoyed their time off from essays, quizzes and classes. Then there’s the inevitable question: “What did YOU do, Chris?”
Well, a few things, actually. I auditioned for Jeopardy in New York City, which was fun. I played a lot of board games with friends I don’t usually get to see during school. I took late-night runs to Taco Bell and Wendy’s with my girlfriend and some other friends, and I had wonderful times laughing and eating cheeseburgers and chalupas under a smiling orange moon. But I did one thing more than any other this past summer.
I got chubby.
I won’t be that way for long—I signed up for the gym, I drink a lot more water than usual, and I stopped taking elevators in favor of the stairs, all in an effort to regain the look I had before all those cheeseburgers and chalupas. I’ll tell you this, though: the school certainly doesn’t make it any easier.
If you’ve so much as glanced at the menu for Nathan’s Hot Dogs, the franchise that replaced Coyote Jack’s in the student center food court over the summer, you may have noticed the astronomical calorie count on some of the meals. OK, 1,700 calories for chicken wings and fries? And 1,100 calories for an order of bacon ranch fries, which sound absolutely deadly to begin with? It’s numbers like these that really make me miss the salad bar.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m a huge fan of beef, chicken and bacon, and I have no intention of giving them up completely anytime soon. However, I miss the ability to choose to eat a healthy lunch or dinner, as opposed to simply deciding which food seems the least evil that particular day.
I am a Type 2 diabetic, diagnosed in January of 2010. When a salad bar existed in the Student Center, lunch was usually an easy option for me: If I had been good and my blood sugar was in check, I could have a sandwich here and there. If I needed to be particularly careful, I could make a salad with all the vegetables I liked, thereby having a guilt-free meal I could feel good about. Nowadays, between the 2-pound plates of pasta, the abnormally large burritos, and the sandwiches that contain as much sodium as a dinner for two, I don’t know what WON’T kill me. And before you tell me about the prepackaged salads, do yourself a favor and check the sodium and fat content on those things. (Don’t see the nutrition information? Ask someone for it.)
I truly feel for the vegan/vegetarian population on campus, many of which I know have been clamoring for healthier, meat-free dining options for quite a while. I sympathize even more with the population of Hindu, Muslim and Jewish students in our school, whose respective religions forbid them from eating a vast majority of what is served in the Student Center. Last fall semester, students were told that a new program was going to be rolled out which would allow students to buy a plastic bowl for use at the salad bar at Conn Hall—a glorious idea, especially for commuters who don’t turn to the dining hall nearly as often as residents. Almost a year later, we’re still waiting for those bowls. In the meantime, to help comfort the vegetarians, healthy eaters and salad lovers, they installed a $40,000 automatic ice cream machine. Think of it as a shoulder to cry on.
A big, cold shoulder.
I have my share of other food service issues on campus—for example, if the staff has something better to do with their day, as some of their attitudes would suggest, then they should go do it and leave the service to friendly, charming people like Jackie and Summer. However, the increasing prevalence of fat-soaked, deep-fried, processed food on our campus, against the backdrop of a country in which no state has an obesity rate below 20 percent (CDC.gov), seems to me like the most heinous offense of them all.
The people in charge have made it clear that if we don’t ask for change, change will not occur. Apparently, we’re not speaking loud enough. Fill out those suggestion cards. Talk to the Chartwells supervisors. That’s why they exist, and that’s why they get paid. Let the people who feed you know what’s in the food they’re feeding you. What you eat in school is as essential to your academic well-being as your textbooks or pens. In the same way we protect our freedom of the press, or of speech, or of religion, we should be protecting our freedom of diet.

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