In a country where 66 percent of college students say they are very health conscious, a new farm-to-college program at more than 100 colleges in the United States supports local economies by increasing farmer income and provides hungry students with healthier food options.
Students on the University of Miami meal plan say they would like to see similar healthy options instated on campus.
“I would rather know that food is prepared fresh and daily rather than eating food that comes from all over the country,” junior Natasha Mobed said.
Though UM is not planning on establishing a farm-to-college program, the on-campus dining service, Chartwells, provides nutritious and vegetarian options.
“We take food service very seriously,” said Lee Rapport, Chartwells’ resident district manager. “We are trying to educate the students that all food stations can be vegetarian.”
In addition to providing vegetarian options, Chartwells is part of a program called Balanced Choices, which is directed by a registered dietitian. Balanced Choices is a nutrition program which focuses on healthy diets and has a database of over 1,000 recipes.
Twice a year, students on the UM meal plan are asked to fill out a survey on customer satisfaction and are asked to suggest improvements for the future. Based on the surveys, Chartwells recently added a non-dairy ice cream machine for lactose-free students.
Still, students who dine at colleges with the farm-to-college program are offered a variety of food options, depending on the season. For example, students are provided with sprigs of asparagus in the spring; peas and beets in the summer; and apples and squash in the fall, according to a CNN.com article.
Some students feel that one must be resourceful to find variety at Chartwells.
“I think the food [at Chartwells] is okay at best,” junior John Howard said. “You have to do searching to find the healthy foods.”
Other students feel that Chartwells lacks any variety.
“There’s nothing more disheartening then seeing that for lunch Chartwells is serving chicken fingers and then for dinner they reuse the chicken fingers to make chicken parmesan,” sophomore Mike O’Brien said.
The Chartwells menu is on a four-week rotation cycle, which the company believes should provide an ample amount of variety for students.
“I think some of the happiest students are the most creative,” said Tracy Cancro, a marketing manager for Chartwells.
Unfortunately, the farm-to-college program is costly because local foodstuffs are produced on a smaller scale compared to industrialized operations like that of the national corporation, SYSCO, which is used by UM.
Mel Tenen, assistant vice president of auxiliary services, said Chartwells serves roughly 35,000 meals per week at its two locations on campus. Switching to a smaller operation to serve such a large amount of students translates into students paying more money for their meal plans.
Though UM students would like more nutritious options, when making the choice between healthy food options or healthy wallets, some college students choose their wallets.
“I wouldn’t want to pay more just because we already pay like $8 a meal,” junior Heidi Shrier said. “Yes I do want healthier options, but if that means paying $10 a meal, then there has to be some other way.”
Karyn Meshbane may be contacted at email@example.com.