By: Kelsey Nevius
As students enter Henderson Dining Hall at the University of Findlay, their stomachs rumbling and their tempers short from the classes of the day, they are greeted by the sights and sounds of the affectionately nicknamed, Hendo. Students hear the scrape of shoes on the linoleum floor, the distant chatter and laughter of the lunchtime crowd, and the metal on metal clang from each meal station.
Their eyes dart from screen to screen posted above each meal station that shows the meal of the day: Ruben sandwiches, tomato and basil soup, Caesar salad, and proteins in all shapes, colors and smells assaulting them from all sides. Some stick with the tried-and-true chicken nuggets, while others try to stay on the healthy side by opting for the salad bar.
Regardless of meal choice, healthy eating is a fluctuating term that goes through every college student’s mind, especially those dreading the freshman 15. Though each person may define it differently, healthy eating can be described as anything from watching your portion sizes to maintaining your daily intake of fruits and vegetables.
College students need to be aware of the healthy options on campus and how to manage their healthy eating. According to Medical Daily, 59 percent of college students have food insecurities, and the percentage of overweight college students has risen to 29.2 percent.
Peyton Sibert, University of Findlay junior and healthy eater, knows that the search for healthy eating on campus can be a struggle.
“The food on campus seems really processed,” said Sibert. “I feel like the only healthy eating is a sub, depending on how you make it, and maybe pretzels and hummus from a la carte.”
However, finding a balance between student needs like Sibert’s and Sodexo’s menus can be hard to maintain.
In a back-corner office, where the sounds of laughing students and forks clinking on plates can be heard loud and clear, sits David Harr, director of Sodexo campus services. He says he enjoys the sounds of students enjoying their time at Henderson and likes the community aspect of the dining hall, but recognizes that healthy eating is a topic that is debated around campus.
“It’s hard to define healthy eating, because it’s up to the individual and how they perceive what healthy eating is,” said Harr.
While students always cheer for more chicken nuggets, Harr says that keeping campus dining healthy can be a challenge, but they have made changes to keep up with the healthy eating trend.
“When we get back our surveys, it’s always ‘we need more healthy food’, and then they say in the comments, ‘we need more chicken nuggets’,” said Harr. “Each individual person comes up with their diet and what they like to have, and we try to have things available for each of those diets.”
Harr also notes that Henderson is run by Sodexo’s standards, which includes a national menu team who puts the menu together on a four week cycle. Additionally, Harr notes that healthy trends seem to come in waves across the country: what’s popular in California now may hit Findlay in three months.
Henderson’s and the Refinery’s menu options include things for vegetarians, vegans, and other people who may either be looking for healthy choices or who have a special dietary concern. If a college student is looking to eat more mindfully, however, the dining service has an icon for just that.
“In Henderson, one of the things we find is that we have a thing called Mindful. Mindful items have a little apple next to it, an icon,” said Harr. “Those are deemed to be the healthy dishes and items, they have low sodium, a good calorie counts across the board, and you’ll find that most of those aren’t fried.”
However, Harr notes that healthy eating is a two way street. Since Henderson is a self-serve, all-you-can-eat dining hall, much of what students eat is in their own hands. Additionally, the Refinery tends to rotate their meals and try to balance the nutritional values in them.
“It’s hard to do portion control in a place where you self-serve, so that’s up to the person that’s there,” said Harr. “But the Bite ‘app’ by Sodexo, if you load it on your phone and have your location turned on for that app, it’ll pull up Henderson Dining Hall and the stuff down at the Refinery. If you pull up the app, it will have everything that’s menued for that day on it, and you can go to particular items and show the nutritional information of everything.”
Dining hall fare isn’t the only thing that students have to worry about: catered events may factor into healthy eating, as Lori Kragnes, catering manager, knows all too well. Kragnes has an open-door policy with students, helping them to plan the catering for their events and trying to drive them in a healthy direction.
“Everybody wants starch: potatoes. I had a health food store for over 10 years, so I have a health food background, and I was a competitive power lifter,” said Kragnes about her healthy past. “I don’t push [healthy eating] down people’s throats, because they don’t want to hear it. I want to hear them, and what they have to say.”
Kragnes also says that it is important to be careful about certain foods. Sugary and calorie-filled drinks are a huge contributor to adding the calories, and she says that it is better to eat something filling. Kragnes hates the word dieting: she prefers to educate students about changing their eating habits and lifestyle instead.
“You balance [meals] out a bit by bringing in brown rice, by bringing in vegetables that are green and colorful; but I have to give them what they want while also trying to educate them,” said Kragnes.
And for those students who still crave a healthier selection, or who want to plan events that cater to a health-conscious crowd, both the dining service and catering service are shifting to a greener perspective.
“We’re going to be launching the new website which will be geared toward the community and make it simple, easy, inexpensive, healthy options,” said Kragnes about the new catering ordering system that will be implemented next semester, in the fall of 2018.
For the dining service, Harr states that the cycle is always changing, and they are looking to incorporate more mindful options, like replacing iceberg lettuce with spinach.
“Our formula for Henderson is listening to our customers, what they’re doing, and seeing what they’re eating. Sometimes those are different,” Harr laughed, “But we try to balance those out.”