The College Blog is a partnership between City Newspaper and Rochester Institute of Technology Assistant Professor Dr. Hinda Mandell. Each week City will post blogs from several of Mandell’s journalism students, who will write about what concerns Rochester-area college students, both on and off campus.
When new college students first move into their on-campus housing, one new responsibility sets in above all others: control over their diet.
No one is there to make dinner for them. No one is there to tell them they shouldn't eat pizza three times a day, or that each meal doesn't need to end with ice cream.
On top of this, students are granted a meal plan. This is essentially a large sum of money usable only at on-campus restaurants and cafeterias.
Naturally, it's not uncommon for students to go wild at first. With no voice of reason, it can be hard for a student to turn down tasty fried foods when they are presented to them. Salad or a vegetable side might be completely glanced over in favor of French fries. Or to make room in a take-out box for a stack of cookies.
All too soon, these seemingly wonderful choices come back to bite the student. And the fabled "freshman 15" is suddenly a reality, rather than a joke.
It's no fault of the colleges. As many students can testify, there are a number of healthy options. Many cafeterias are equipped with vegetarian bars and salad bars. Pasta, sandwiches, and other non-fried dishes are served. These healthier options are available - in plain sight - in the cafeteria.
And we can't blame student proclivity toward junk on a lack of food variety. The Gracie's cafeteria at RIT, the main stop for hungry freshmen on campus, has two sections that change their menu day to day. They range from Mexican cuisine and Southern comfort food, to grills and sushi bars. Options abound. But for some, it's easier to grab a couple slices of pizza and a soda than to piece together a healthier meal.
Speaking on a personal note, during my freshman year there was a point where I was eating pizza four nights a week -- sometimes more. It wasn't healthy, but it was all that was open when I got out of class at night. It was quick and convenient.
When it comes down to it, students just need to take some responsibility for their diets. They need to make time in their schedules for meals, and they need to eat more healthily.
But as time passes, most students learn how to take care of themselves and they fix their mistakes. It's part of the college experience. And it's part of growing up.