Mueller: Food Options Lacking for Students

Rich McGowan, a junior in Community Regional Planning, often finds himself wondering how he’ll find delicious varieties of healthy food whenever he eats on-campus. Students struggle every day with ways to find healthy food options and Iowa State is lacking on providing those options.

Being a student that lives off-campus, I do not have a large meal plan. Whenever I do find myself purchasing a meal bundle, it always happens at the Memorial Union. There’s a pretty impressive salad bar that I was excited to take advantage of, until I learned it is not covered until meal bundle options. Instead, they offer a small pre-packaged salad.

With how expensive it has become to attend college, I would expect to use the full salad bar. There’s no shortage of junk food to choose: pizza, fried chicken, three different kinds of French fries, Mexican, etc. Students are also able to pick three cookies for their sides while the nice fruit cups are not covered under meal bundles.

For students living off-campus, grocery shopping for your residence is not always enough. With hectic schedules of classes, meals on-campus becomes a must. This leads to off-campus students paying for groceries AND meal bundles on top of it. Adding dining dollars is just another expense if you do want food not covered under meal bundles, like fresh fruit cups or Subway.

Joey Christensen, a junior in Supply Chain Management, lives off-campus. Christensen also picks all of his meals on-campus from the Memorial Union. He states “It’s convenient to eat there walking to and from campus,” but convenience does not always mean happiness. “I wish there were more options with what to eat under meal bundles. There’s a lot when it comes to dining dollars but very limited choices with meal bundles,” stated Christensen.

Students that are practicing vegetarians or vegans have an even harder time finding good meals on-campus. There are options, but very few. Vegetarians and vegans should be offered the same amount of food options as everyone else. For vegetarians, they could choose meal bundle options of cheese pizza, the pre-packaged salad or a meatless burrito in the Memorial Union. Those are about the only options offered, unless they dig into dining dollars and ignore meal bundles all together. For vegans, it’s nearly impossible to find anything to eat in the Memorial Union with meal bundles.

Granted, students that are not practicing vegetarians or vegans won’t complain because they enjoy the food offered. However, there are more students suffering than just vegetarians, vegans, and health-phonetics.

According to Food Allergy Research & Education, “researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies” and the number, for unknown reasons, continues to grow. FARE also reports that, “more than 17 million Europeans have a food allergy.” With the growth in food allergies, there needs to be an expansion on food options for these students.

One specific food allergy on the rise in America is Celiac Disease. Celiac Central defines Celiac disease as, “an autoimmune digestive disease that damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food.” Ultimately, people diagnosed with Celiac Disease are allergic to foods with gluten. USA Today reported “nearly five times as many people have celiac disease today than did during the 1950s.”

Cayla Witte, a sophomore studying Biology, lives with Celiac Disease. Witte registered her food allergy with Iowa State so gluten-free meals were provided for her. Witte was very pleased with the food she was offered but not always, “my only complaint is that someone’s fish was the only option for dinner and I don’t do fish!” Once Witte moved off-campus to reside in her sorority house, she gained having a chef. However, eating on-campus after moving to the sorority house showed Witte that “there isn’t very many gluten free meal options on campus.”

Of course there is always the option of these students packing their own food to lug around all day, but why should students with dietary needs have to suffer when food could so easily to accessible? Students want to eat on-campus; the food is prepared and convenient to pick up. As Witte also points out, “gluten free food is generally a lot more expensive than regular food.” The university should contribute some of the millions of dollars students pay towards healthier food for students.

Iowa State has already made great efforts in accommodating students with dietary needs but the need is increasing while the efforts are not. As more people inherit food allergies or decide to eat a healthier lifestyle, Iowa State should revamp menus to best accommodate everyone.