Campus dining could use simple, health-conscious updates

By Emilie Woods ’16, Contributing Writer

It looks like composting might be a thing that is happening in the F&M dining hall, or “Dhall” as we commonly refer to it. Composting? Really? Coming from an Italian home, all I can think as I search through the dinner options during the week following Winter break is, “Where’s the grated cheese?” Finding none, as usual, all I can locate are the new friendly compost signs all over the place. Don’t get me wrong, this green practice is wonderful, but Dhall has a little more work to do with food before jumping to environmentalism.

Around Halloween this past year, beloved members of the Dhall staff passed out papers on which we were encouraged to write what food items we thought Dhall needed. My roommate and I were quite excited about this opportunity and carefully wrote down what we had been moaning the lack of for so long. After we literally put exclamation points at the ends of our desired foods, we wondered if they would manifest themselves. A few weeks passed, and to our sad realization, it was as though “Grated cheese!!” was never seen.

It’s not just Pecorino Romano that I’m missing from home. It’s real orange juice (Minute Maid Premium Orange Blend — seriously?). It’s better yogurt. It’s peanut butter! These are not only healthy foods, but they are simple and require no preparation whatsoever. The fact that Dhall doesn’t have them is comical. We are paying an insane amount of money to go to school and live here, and we should not have to spend any extra buying these items from CVS to fill our tiny fridges.

When my mom was principal of a public elementary school in Brooklyn, NY, she was passionate about improving her school’s food. As someone who was taught to love food and cooking from early on, this was high on her agenda, and her efforts combined with others’ were quite successful. This school, Public School 29, is involved with Wellness in the Schools, a “nonprofit program that places culinary school graduates in New York City public schools to create appealing meals from wholesome ingredients,” writes Lesley Alderman of The New York Times.

Throughout the nation, many school districts are following suit and making healthy food a priority. In addition, First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, which advocates not only for the physical activity of American children but also for better school food, is evidence that a national movement on this issue is taking place.

Now, it is time for this movement to extend to higher education. We are hardworking young people who need proper nutrition, but when dinner’s vegetables look very sad and the meat is unidentifiable, college kids are no different from those in elementary school — we will go and get fries instead. Completely stopping us from going for the unhealthy options is impossible, but it is obvious that an improvement upon the healthy options will make us more likely to choose them.

This is not to deny how privileged I realize we all are to be at this school. I feel silly sometimes when I grumble about our food because, on the large scale of things, it is a trivial matter. Dhall by no means serves bad food and is certainly impressive in some respects (with K.I.V.O., a gluten- free section, and whole wheat pancakes being some of its most notable features). However, when

it is difficult to obtain simple items like brown rice or even avocados in a state-of-the-art college dining hall, dinnertime becomes a little less grandiose. Easy alterations can be made that would make a world of difference to so many of us.

As college has already proven to us all, our lives here are completely in our own hands. So, we have no choice but to be our own advocates. Unlike at P.S. 29 and other public grade schools where parents are present to fight for better school lunches, we don’t have anyone but ourselves to make some change.

Together, we have to make it clear that if we are so with the times that large compost bins now line the front of the dish room, it sure as hell should not be too hard to acquire some good old Tropicana orange juice.

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