After reading an article in the Sept. 20 issue of The Signal about the fat and calorie content in food on campus, three sophomore suitemates planned to collect signatures for a petition to request changes that would make eating healthy on campus easier.
Chris Rindosh, who is their Community Advisor as well as vice president of Student Services for the Student Government Association (SGA), asked them for a list of suggestions instead. Rindosh would pass the list on to Jason Schramm and Meagan Terry, senators at-Large and members of the Student Services committee, who could take it to a Dining Services meeting.
On Sept. 26, the three residents, Janna Raudenbush, open options in the school of Culture and Society, Christina Wall, elementary education/psychology major, and Lauren D’Amato, engineering major, compiled a list of 16 questions, suggestions and requests for Sodexho managers, titled “Requests for Healthier Food in the Dining Hall.”
The list was presented to Sodexho managers at a Dining Services meeting on Sept. 27.
In response to a request that nutritional information accompany food, John Higgins, general manager of Dining Services, explained that not all the food Sodexho serves has a nutritional breakdown.
According to Higgins, Sodexho uses a database to organize its recipes and nutritional information. In the database, Higgins said, two different programs are used – one for recipes and one for nutritional information. Higgins said that because of this, Sodexho has recipes for some food, but not the corresponding nutritional information.
When asked specifically about missing nutritional information for hamburgers in Eickhoff Hall, Matt Hower, director of resident dining, said the nutritional information card for the item was present, but it was in the wrong place.
Sodexho’s relocation of tray carts from the center of Eickhoff dining hall to the area just outside of the kitchen was also questioned at the meeting.
The reason for the change, according to Higgins, was because most students “like the Carte Blanche program.” By moving the tray carts more students can eat in Eickhoff.
Higgins said the number of Carte Blanche users at the College has increased by about 500 students this semester. The increase, according to Higgins, came not only because of the larger freshman class, but also because of upperclassmen who have chosen to use Carte Blanche rather than A la Carte.
According to Hower, in light of the increased number of Carte Blanche users, moving the tray carts has made Eickhoff “quieter and cleaner.” He added that Sodexho has received many positive comments about the change.
Students also questioned whether Sodexho employees are using too much oil when cooking food. However, according to Sodexho representatives, oil is not used in preparing the food. Instead, margarine is used.
Despite the list, when asked if Sodexho has received complaints since the Signal article, Higgins said, “Not a one.”
Rindosh said he was impressed residents on his floor created a list. “Most students don’t take the initiative to do that,” he said.
“We weren’t really trying to ask for much,” Raudenbush said. They are not asking for a million healthier entrees, she said, just “simple, one-step things that could be done.”
For example, item 12 on the list says, “In the chicken sandwich/hamburger section, rolls should be offered that are not coated and toasted in the butter mixture.”
Wall suggested that implementing such a change would also be cost-effective. “You’re saving all that butter and oil,” she said.
The list asks for more fruits and vegetables, including ripe bananas, and healthier cereal choices. It also says students would welcome lean lunch meat, more low-fat desserts, baked and light chips, and soups lower in calories, fat and sodium. Additionally, the list requests clearly labeled low-fat or non-fat condiments and dressings on a daily basis.
“Please, PLEASE mark the food correctly,” the list says in its 16th and final item. “Often bakery items have no information. Items offered in the regular line only correspond with the posted nutritional information about half the time. The labels don’t help if the food isn’t marked correctly all the time, every time.”
Raudenbush said she knows it’s not feasible for all the requests to be fulfilled, but thinks that if students write them down, Sodexho will at least know what students want.
“We always thought these things, but we never wrote them down,” Raudenbush said, noting that the article in The Signal “sparked a discussion.”
Higgins encouraged students to contact a Sodexho manager if they encountered a problem while in a dining hall.
Dining Services meetings are held every other week with interested students, SGA representatives and Sodexho management “to . discuss ways Dining Services can even better meet the needs of our customers,” according to the College’s Dining Services Web site.
Students with comments and concerns that they would like addressed at the next Dining Services meeting should e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org.