At the heart of any commitment to healthier eating is a willingness to invest in better quality food and the preparation of food in healthier ways. The organization of meal plans is also important, as is the availability of healthy eating options outside of regular dining hours and even from vending machines. Independents and graduate students have concerns about access to healthy food that they can prepare themselves, about the facilities available for food preparation, and about the availability of food during the summer and over breaks. We recommend that ongoing discussions about meal plan flexibility, hours of operation, cost of meal plans, and coverage during summer and breaks continue. A separate committee to consider dining in the new four-year residential colleges is being formed and we hope that it will contribute in a positive way to these discussions.
Specific recommendations for enhancing the dining experience on campus follow:
1. The salad bars offered by Dining Services should be improved. The model should be the downstairs salad bar in Prospect House that Restaurant Associates provides at lower cost than at Frist. The salads should be fresh and use good-tasting ingredients that are affordably priced.
2. Vegetarian options should be improved across the board. In focus groups and among task force members, the lack of vegetarian options and the taste of vegetarian options got low marks. Maybe taste tests with vegans and vegetarians could help.
3. Help the harried student/faculty/staff member eat well on the fly. Offer freshly prepared, pre-packaged meals, especially in the evening.
4. Improve the quality and nutritional value of food at study breaks.
5. Consider reducing portion size in the interest of better health.
6. Engage more with local restaurants for education sessions, but also for food offerings and, where feasible, use local farms and providers for produce and food.
Our most important recommendations are: (1) add at least one additional professional nutritionist to the UHS staff; (2) convert the Frist Beverage Lab into a healthy eating center; (3) develop a well-publicized eating disorders hotline; (4) create presentations about nutrition, healthy eating, and other food related matters (perhaps at the converted Beverage Lab); and (5) expand the availability of food over breaks and the summers (for grad students) and during the hours not covered by the residential colleges or by Frist late meals.
While we will have more to say about the health and well being of faculty and staff in our final report after we have had the benefit of reviewing the survey results, we would like to offer several recommendations at this time.