Kayla Harris created a farmer's market for healthier campus eating. Photo courtesy N.C. A&T.
Freshman 15: The Challenge of Healthy Eating in College
By Maya Whitlow
JOMC Journal Contributor
Salad, salad, salad, wrap, salad… With the repetitive and limited selection of healthy food options in college dining halls, it is no wonder that freshmen gain those dreaded 15 pounds by the end of the school year.
Salad has been the most prevalent choice of healthy eating for years, but most college students will agree that eating salads everyday can become monotonous.
Madeline Keefer, a sophomore biological engineering student at North Carolina A&T State University (NCA&T), says “Salads can get very boring. It has the same taste and doesn’t have much substance. I need variety.”
Variety brings excitement to life, and without a variety of healthy options, healthy eating is almost impossible to sustain in college. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination survey, the prevalence rate of obesity in college students has doubled over the past 10 years. College campuses fail to provide the proper environment for students to eat and maintain a healthy, balanced diet.
At NCA&T, several students agree that campus does not provide many dining options are healthy, and the healthy choices are not appealing.
Wynton Johnson, a junior architectural engineering student, recently discussed the university’s food choices.
“A lot of the healthy food doesn’t taste good at all, so people go to the pizza line, the burger, or the Sit-In which isn’t very healthy,” said Johnson.
NCA&T provides salads, wraps, and sandwiches to go under the healthy foods category, but if one adds a calorie dense dressing or condiment, all the nutrition becomes null and void.
“To me, the salad bar isn’t that appealing,” says Jawari Boyd, a junior electrical engineering student. “The salad bar doesn’t have the options I want, and the dressings aren’t really tasty.”
Aside from the lack of healthy options on campus, college students often claim that they don’t have enough money to be spending on expensive, healthy food. For example, “Money often is an issue,” says James Brown, a junior supply chain management student at NCA&T. Being healthy costs money, and many college students don’t have the money to buy whole foods and healthy foods. It’s cheaper to be unhealthy.”
Students can typically purchase substantial meals for $1 to $3. However, students also maintain that buying groceries from the supermarket is more expensive. Cheese costs $2.99, and hamburger buns cost $1.87. Hamburgers cost $5.11.
So why do college students do instead? They make a quick and convenient decision and buy meals from fast food restaurants.
The proximity of fast food restaurants to campus also doesn’t help with college students’ decisions to eat healthy.
“We have Cook-out, Wendy’s, McDonalds, Taco Bell, and all these fast food restaurants on Summit,” says Maya Earle, a sophomore computer science student at NCA&T. “They are so delicious, and if you really feel like it, you can walk to these places. The proximity does affect my decision because if I know I have a chance of getting that, then I’m most likely not going to eat something that’s healthier in the café or in Simply.”
Rather than complain about the food options on campus, Kayla Harris decided to take action and make a change by creating the Farmer’s Market Initiative.
Kayla Harris, a sophomore biology student at NCA&T, became the first student to establish a Farmer’s Market at an HBCU in efforts to bring healthier foods to campus and awareness to the food services that students want a diverse and larger selection of healthier foods on campus.
“I started the Farmer’s Market so students would have no reason to say that they do not have access or were not provided with healthy organic food options,” says Harris. Her farmer’s market initiative idea started in the English classroom of former NCA&T professor Deborah Barnes in September of 2012, but the actual market did not open until September of 2013. “Getting students involved and to come out and physically support the Farmer’s Market has been the largest obstacle to overcome,” explains Harris. The faculty and staff of NCA&T support Harris’ initiative.
“I hope that the Farmer’s Market will one day be able to have more relationships with local markets near campus and also be able to sell produce that is grown on the university farm,” Harris says.
The Farmer’s Market initiative has been “very successful”, according to Harris. “A lot of people know about the markets and since it is getting closer to spring time people are very interested in coming out. My first Framer’s Market in Greensboro had about 100 people, so I am trying to continue to keep those numbers up.” NCA&T now has a farmer’s market that provides healthy, organic food options, so college students at NCA&T do not have an excuse to say there are no healthy alternatives.
Although the Farmer’s Market is not on campus, the market is close enough so for who students that want to eat healthier can do so.
“I eat a lot healthier since I started the farmer’s market,” Harris says. “I do not eat wheat, and I also do not eat pork or beef. Since starting the farmer’s market, I do more research on different foods and what benefits they have for your body.”
Cooperative Extension, an organization that works in partnership with North Carolina State University, is now collaborating with NCA&T to celebrate the annual Small Farms Week. Small Farms Week took place in late Marchand incorporated workshops, demonstrations, and the announcement of the 2014 Small Farmer of the Year. Some activities to bring awareness to agriculture included demonstrations at A&T’s University Farm for middle-school students, the screening of a film on urban agriculture, and a guest lecture by Robin Emmons, a young, successful urban farmer. Programs like Small Farms Week and Harris’ Farmer’s Market at NCA&T are just a couple ways to provide awareness to healthier food options on college campuses.