Students crave healthier food

A U survey shows students also want lower healthy food prices on campus.

by Branden Largent

A new survey showed University of Minnesota students living in residence halls want more inexpensive and healthy food options on campus.

Three undergraduate interns from the University’s Obesity Prevention Center surveyed students living in Territorial Hall and Sanford Hall. Nearly 94 percent of the 1,162 respondents agreed that healthy food and beverages should be available at all University dining facilities.

Nutrition junior Taylor Aasand, who helped conduct and analyze the surveys, said she was pleased that most of the responding students were looking to eat healthier.

Almost 87 percent of students who responded said high prices are a barrier to buying healthy food.

“Students are finding [high healthy food prices] to be a huge barrier to practice healthy eating,” Aasand said.

The Obesity Prevention Center was concerned about the food offered on campus because health problems on campus reflect a nationwide issue, center director Simone French said.

Nearly one in three University students is overweight, obese or extremely obese, according to the 2010 College Student Health Survey. More than 35 percent of Americans are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The center plans to bring the survey results to University Dining Services to discuss how to provide more healthy food options on

UDS would be willing to collaborate with the students and consider their suggestions, said Leslie Bowman, director of UDS contract administration.

“Can a better job be done? Always,” she said. “UDS is always trying to improve.”

Bowman said UDS is already working to improve students’ heath and eating options.

Since January 2011, UDS has posted calorie information on all menu boards, she said.

After meeting with Students for Gluten Free Awareness last July, UDS health and wellness coordinator Jenna Brott said there are more gluten-free options in campus dining halls.

Brott said she meets with students regularly to get input on improving campus dining.

“It’s great to get feedback from those groups to add food options,” she said.

Customer satisfaction with the availability of healthy foods and nutritional information “dramatically increased” from fall 2011 to fall 2012, Bowman said

“I think that if students are looking for healthy foods, that in every location they can find choices that would meet those needs,” Bowman said.

Now that the residence hall survey is complete, College of Biological Sciences senior Amber Mayer said she’d be interested to see future Obesity Prevention Center interns survey older students because more than 85 percent of respondents were freshmen.

“It would be interesting to get a broader audience and hopefully do some focus groups,” Mayer said.