By Jacquie Nelson
Food has become a hot topic at Ryerson.
In fact, March was National Nutrition Month. But between Aramark’s reduced service, dissatisfied employees, high prices and student gripes about selection, the Ryerson community may have lost sight of the real issue: Are students making healthy food choices?
For the most part, the answer is no — and for some very specific reasons.
Melissa Matton, Ryerson’s health promotions nurse, runs nutrition workshops on campus and in the residences. In her experience, most students are unhappy with campus food.
“[It’s] not that there aren’t healthy choices, but they’re very expensive,” she said. “Having a salad for lunch isn’t always part of their budget.”
Ready-made salad options around campus sell for about $6 a pop, which is three times as expensive as sodium-saturated street meat with unlimited condiments for a toonie.
The salads on campus don’t even measure up to those at the nearby Dominion grocery store, where students can pick up an equivalant-sized romaine lettuce salad for a dollar or two less.
Jessica Martens, a first-year new media student living in Pitman Hall, doesn’t find the price a deterrent in choosing healthy foods. She does, however, have an issue with the variety of healthy meal alternatives on campus. “There aren’t many fruit choices, except for lots of Granny Smith apples, which I hate. They could use some more options. I’m a fruit lover,” she said.
She also points out that sometimes the broccoli is all stems; and if there are flowers, they are far too big to go in a salad.
Along with Nutrition Information Services, the Ryerson Student Nutrition Action Committee (RSNAC) is aiming to help students eat healthier. Organized by ancillary services at Ryerson, the group provides nutritional information for all Aramark meals online. But that information hasn’t been updated since last year.
However, it’s possible to look on Ryerson’s website for every dish being served at Maggie’s Eatery in the International Living and Learning Centre (ILLC). Students can view each item’s ingredients and nutritional information. The menus for the week are up to date so students know exactly what’s coming.
As well, RSNAC publishes a monthly news letter, full of healthy-eating and active-living tips. The four-page booklet even has coupons for a free coffee at Maggie’s and 50 per cent off their salads.
This should make Leigh-Ann DeJonge happy. The second-year nutrition major feels that the best way to get students to eat healthy is to encourage health on campus.
“There should be sales on certain days promoting healthy food. For example, on Tuesdays, all salads are half price, or all milk is 20 per cent off,” she said.
While healthy foods are certainly more expensive than their fattier adversaries, students on a strict budget shouldn’t feel healthy options are beyond their means.
Ryerson’s Community Food Room, located in room 212 of the SCC, can help students interested in health but on a strict budget.
On top of offering free food items to students in need, the centre also runs “The Good Food Box.” For between $12 and $32 (depending on size and organic status) students can order a fresh basket of assorted, colourful fruits and veggies. Each purchase also comes with nutritional information and easy recipes. The baskets help the Food Room gain credits to buy more staple items, in turn helping more students.
Once you know your options, it all comes down to choice. Will students choose the low-fat vinaigrette or the creamy caesar to accompany their greens?
But even the gurus crave calories sometimes.
“People think that nutrition students only eat healthy and that’s not true. We love our occasional cookie or slice of pizza,” DeJonge said. “I do not recommend getting rid of less healthy choices. There are times when we all crave ‘bad’ foods.”
But she does say that increased accessibility to healthy options will make it easier for students to choose nourishing alternatives to that 1,016-calorie pepperoni pizza slice at Maggie’s.