Opinions, Column, Featured Column

Students’ Healthy Diet Should Be BC Dining’s First Priority

Confession: I used to be 250 pounds. While a small fraction of this could be attributed to an Italian grandmother who had little to no regard for portion sizes, most of it could be attributed to late-night stress-eating coupled with the easy availability of junk food.

As is the same with many college students across the country, weeknights in high school for me often entailed very little sleep. I juggled upwards of three AP classes per semester, as well as extracurriculars, community service, and some semblance of a social life. The mounds of coursework that accompanied high school led me into the early hours of the morning, which came with very serious health and weight implications. A continuation of this lifestyle at BC leads many students to repeat my mistakes as they study until 2 or 3 a.m.

The issue is simple. BC offers very little healthy food to its students, which is particularly damaging in an environment where stress-eating and late-night eating are rampant. Every dining hall should prominently feature healthy food, with the unhealthy options being the exceptions.

Of course there are salad bars, but they alone do not offer people all of the nutrition they need—nor should it. Eating multiple salads a day is not enjoyable unless you really love salad, and, even then, I can’t envision anybody wanting to go five days a week with bowl after bowl of green leaves. However, beyond this salad bar is, in most cases, extremely unhealthy food.

A trip to the dining hall menus paints a portrait of what BC students are expected to eat. For breakfast you have pancakes, waffles, french toast, and bacon. The healthy options are typically limited to eggs. That is to say, several carb-loaded, cholesterol boosting, highly fattening options to one option that is only debatably healthy. The limited selection of yogurt and fruit is stored away in the fridges, far from fresh and far from visible.

For lunch and dinner there are burgers, deli sandwiches, pizza, burritos, grilled cheeses, and numerous packaged sandwiches, such as chicken-bacon-sriracha and peanut butter and jelly. You will find chicken and steak, but that’s as far as you will typically get. Just as with breakfast, the ratio of fatty, high-calorie food to healthy food remains just as imbalanced.

Most of the healthy food available is also comprised of animal products or gluten, so if you are vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free, you are even more out of luck.

This is all on top of the absence of healthy snacks, in favor of vending machines that contain everything from Skittles to Cheez-Its to Coke, and shelves filled with nothing but different varieties of chips. In the fridges you can also find cake, cupcakes, highly-sugary pudding (trust me, I’ve tried it), and cookies the same diameter as my face.

The issue is not the availability of junk food, as we are all adults tasked with making our own decisions. The issue is the lack of availability of healthy food. It is not my belief that BC, like a parent, should help guide us wayward children to nutrition. The cultivation of an environment where sleep is seen as optional and general health less important than academic success is already very unhealthy. Add copious junk food into the mix of highly-stressed students, and college campuses—including BC—become the perfect storm for excessive (and rapid) weight gain, as well as a general deterioration of health.

While BC has tried to address this issue by introducing the produce bar, it’s simply not enough. Water refilling stations could be more common and should be able to be found throughout dining halls. BC could carry snacks such as unsalted and unbuttered popcorn, fruits, and other options, rather than limiting us to overpriced fruit that has lost its taste due to being vacuum sealed away in a plastic container.

There are dozens of ways that BC could improve the food it gives to students. We already live in a highly stressful environment—one that engenders binge-eating and late-night snacking. Placing everything from pizza to burritos to burgers and fries at every corner makes health, which should be a non-negotiable aspect of life, a very difficult decision to commit to.

As students, our eating habits are on us, but it would be much better if BC shared that commitment to health.

September 30, 2019