Roughly one-third of all American children are considered obese, and two-thirds of all adults are overweight. America has held the title as the world’s fattest country for a while now, and though the rest of the world is catching up, the obesity rates in the U.S. will continue to increase unless major changes occur. But it’s likely you already knew that.
For the past several years, we have been privy to statistics and studies meant to shock us into eating healthier and increasing exercise. By now, we are so used to these scare tactics that we don’t even look up from our games of “Angry Birds.” Recently, the government has made strides toward improving the health of children and making the public more aware of what exactly we are consuming. However, there is no mention of any programs focused on college students despite studies that show students tend to gain weight during their first year of college. As a “nationally respected leader,” RIT needs to do more to encourage healthy choices and lifestyles.
Michelle Obama, a self-professed “fry lover” has spearheaded the recent efforts to combat childhood obesity. Her approach is one of idealism that also acknowledges the average person’s weakness when making healthy choices. She tells us that though “… everyone loves a good Sunday dinner … The problem is when we eat Sunday dinner Monday through Saturday.” Since the start of her campaign, “Let’s Move!,” in February 2010, much has been accomplished in the effort to produce a healthier generation of children. They worked to pass the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010, which provides healthier food options at school lunches. Schools are also signing up for the Healthier U.S. School Challenge to increase physical activity among children, and Walmart has made the effort to bring low priced, healthy foods to their stores nationwide.
In parallel with the Let’s Move! campaign, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is making an effort to assist consumers in making healthy choices. Dr. Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of Food and Drugs, emphasizes the need for an industry change, stating, “Today, ready access to reliable information about the calorie and nutrient content of food is even more important, given the prevalence of obesity and diet-related diseases in the United States.”
While these endeavors have helped combat childhood obesity, why is the focus only on the youth? In college, especially as a freshman, we become solely responsible for our health for the very first time. Because of this, it is essential that college students have the resources and knowledge necessary to make healthy decisions.
Nutrition information from RIT eateries is available on the dining services website, but not every food item is listed. And currently, the information isn’t available at most dining locations on campus. According to a staff member at Brick City Café, the managers are hoping to make a sign displaying the nutrition facts of all of the available options for that day. While this plan might work well at some campus eateries, one Gracie’s staff member felt that displaying nutrition information on-site would waste too much paper. This may seem like a valid point, but even one computer set up to show the nutrition information for the options would increase the students’ awareness of what they’re consuming. RIT students should have an easier means to see all of the nutrition facts at the time and place that food is ordered so that they can make healthier meal choices.
In contrast to the government’s move toward a healthier America, most RIT students are lacking the basic knowledge of the food they eat on campus every day. The numbers can be staggering: At Brick City Cafe, a lunchtime favorite, the buffalo chicken wrap, had over one-third of the recommended daily value of fat. And this isn’t an oddity. At Gracie’s, the pizza has almost half the recommended daily value of saturated fat, just four chicken nuggets have over a fifth of the recommended value for sodium, and a blueberry muffin from Artesano Bakery has 38 percent of the recommended value of fat.
Should the workers at dining services be held responsible for my and many other students’ lack of awareness in regards to what we are eating? Of course not. In fact, the students themselves should be the ones asking to see the nutritional information for the daily special or looking at the back of that potato chip bag to check the sodium content. When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, the choice is all yours. But that isn’t to say that the administration can’t do their part as well by posting nutrition facts at all dining locations or providing healthier options.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Reporter.