Ohio University Offering More Healthy Food Options to Students< < Back to
Twenty-eight years ago, Dennis Washington was a student leader at Boyd Dining Hall on the campus of Ohio University. Washington pioneered the student leader program. He returned to campus as an employee not long after graduation, and has found a home in Boyd for the last 19 years.
During Washington’s tenure at the university, not much changed for the dining hall on West Green, until now.
All five sections are unique and feature healthy food options instead of the typical college cafeteria fare. The transformation of Boyd Dining Hall provides students with the opportunity to stick to a nutritious, but also delicious diet.
Statistics show that navigating most dining halls for healthy and hearty meals can be a challenging task for college students.
The most recent numbers available, from 2011, found 5.2 million college students in the U.S. were obese.
According to Angela Bohyer, Ohio University Culinary Services Dietitian and Nutrition Professor, the numbers are a reflection of a sudden lifestyle change.
“So college students, they get to come to college. And for the first time in their lives, they get to make their own food choices. Life is upon them and life is different. So that is a big change,” Bohyer said.
A study conducted on college freshman by Cornell University found an average weight gain of five and a half ounces a week. The college freshman in the study ingested 174 more calories a day than energy expended.
This means the average college student adds about 10 pounds to their frame in the first two years of their undergraduate career.
With health at the forefront of the changes on West Green, the committee created to transform Boyd wanted to make sure that all students could eat healthy, even those with allergies or other food restrictions.
FARE, the Food Allergy Research Association, estimates up to 15 million Americans have food allergies. These allergies can vary depending on age. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the most common food allergies in adults are shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, and fish.
“It seems like every year there’s more. And in addition to the gluten, there’s peanut, soy, I mean, there’s all kinds of allergies. So immediately, we recognized that and wanted to make sure that we at least got something in there,” Washington said.
Ohio University’s Culinary Services takes all dietary restrictions into consideration with a system of informational icons in use at each facility. Students can spot vegan and gluten free items at a glance.
Locally Produced and Sustainable
The District goes the extra mile to ensure that their meals are locally sourced. The Culinary Team buys many of its produce and dairy items from local farmers.
Washington said the effort to find local food producers using sustainable practices is at the forefront of the health revolution at Ohio University.
“We worked with our student involvement group and we wanted to try and be as sustainable as we could. We tried to go as much local as we can. Local for us is about 270 miles. So because we’re out in the middle of nowhere, it was real big for us to be as sustainable as possible,” Washington said.
According to SustainableTable.org, the food industry is divided into two sections. The single global industrial food system, and the many regional food systems.
The regional food system is comprised of local farms, typically run by families rather than corporations. These farms tend to mitigate harm to the environment by limiting pesticides, using sustainable packaging, and minimizing the transportation of their goods to consumers.
Bridging the Gap
Ohio University Culinary Services is not the only choice for healthy, locally produced meals in Athens. United Campus Ministries has served Thursday Suppers for more than 20 years, offering a locally sourced and nutritious meal to anyone who comes through the door.
Thursday Suppers started in 1993 when a group of college students realized that there was a free meal in Athens every day of the work week except Thursday. Coordinators pick up free local produce from Community Food Initiatives and prepare the table for Thursday night. United Campus Ministries Executive Director Melissa Wales said the dinners have an impact on the community and the volunteers.
“When I started working here in 1999, most of our food came from the food bank. So it was a lot of highly processed, high sodium canned food. A lot of tuna casseroles were coming out of the meals in those days. Now, our students are resourced with this wonderful local produce and learning how to cook it. Because it’s one thing to have a bag of greens. It’s another to know what to do with it and know how to cook it. I feel really good and I know our students feel really good that the meals we’re providing twice a week now are really healthy whole foods and mostly locally sourced,” Wales said.
This program gives Ohio University students the opportunity to provide the community with access to a healthy and well balanced meal. Athens is all too familiar with food insecurity. According to Feeding America, one in five area residents are uncertain of where the next meal is coming from.
But it is not just about having something to eat; good nutrition and wellness go hand in hand. Feeding America’s 2014 Hunger in America report shows that a third of low income households have at least one person with diabetes and 58% have a member with hypertension. More than sixty percent of those families have to make the choice between food and medicine each year.
For those in the Athens area who are faced with such choices, United Campus Ministries helps lessen that burden one bowl at a time.
Through serving bowls and building bridges, U.C.M. intern Kathryn Gublitz found a sense of community.
“When people come to get their food, it’s ‘Hey, how are you doing? How’s your week going?’ I love that short interaction with people and putting a smile on their face. It’s a place for people to come and share a meal. Students or individuals living in the community for years, just to sit down and have a conversation,” Gublitz said with a smile on her face.