On-campus options stir up hunger for chow consciousness
My first year at the UA was full of minor cultural shocks. I had to walk everywhere. I shared a small room with someone for the first time. Girls in matching, neon tank tops with strange, imposing letters on them called me a “plebe” as they drove down greek row. And, to make matters worse, there was nothing to eat.
If you’re thinking that I, a hapless freshman, couldn’t manage to find the Student Union Memorial Center, you’re partly right. However, even when I did find my way there, the union’s options seemed profoundly dissatisfying. Gone were my youthful days of fresh fruits and vegetables (french fries not included). Instead, I had access to all of the Burger King and Chick-fil-A I could possibly want.
What option could possibly give students more than a future filled with fries and fudge? The answer is closer to us than expected, literally. Locally grown fruits and vegetables could provide healthy alternatives to what’s currently sold on campus.
Ashley Sanders, a veterinary science junior and undergraduate director for Students for Sustainability, defines locally-grown food as food grown within a 200-mile radius. For us, that’s roughly the distance from Tucson to Phoenix. Foods with lower transport times stay fresher and better retain their nutrients, creating healthy culinary options.
But currently, the name of the game in the student union is more “Super Size Me” than it is “VeggieTales.” Fresh produce is hard to find on campus. Although U-Mart does sell some apples and bananas, its selection of fruits and vegetables is limited. Snacks like gummy worms and chips take center stage. And if you want a salad for dinner on the weekends, good luck; both Core and Cactus Grill are closed, while Panda Express and Papa John’s stay open until 9 p.m. At least pizza is made with tomato sauce, right?
In order to provide healthier options for students, the student union should consider taking advantage of selling the foods, like citrus, that are grown nearby. Integrating more locally grown food into menus at the student union would not only give students healthier options, but it would also be an economical and sustainable decision.
According to Sanders, less carbon is emitted in transport when food is grown closer to its destination. It doesn’t hurt that fresher food tends to be tastier, too.
These local foods can be obtained at nearby farmers markets which offer excellent options for students who crave more than the vegetables in the salad bars at Cactus Grill and Park Student Union.
Many of us living on campus may not have vehicles, but there’s a farmers market just across Speedway Boulevard. Every Friday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the UA College of Medicine Patio at the University Medical Center boasts an impressive array of local produce. On nearby Fourth Avenue, the Food Conspiracy Co-op contains healthy, organic foods. The UA should model its menus around the food sold at those nearby markets.
Recently, Students for Sustainability has helped the UA make important strides in accomplishing just this. According to the program’s December 2013 Progress Report, a burgeoning partnership with local San Xavier Co-Op Farm aims “to source some San Xavier vegetables and beans to student union restaurants.” This is a step forward in furthering campus food quality, but there’s more that could be done.
These partnerships should not end with San Xavier Co-Op, but extend to other farms in the surrounding area.
Once that happens, the student unions can sell healthier foods and begin a joint initiative with Campus Health Service to promote healthy eating. Students who frequently go elsewhere for their produce could start to frequent places like U-Mart. The SUMC would not need to worry about losing profits to farmer’s markets, the exhibitors are the markets would still be making money through a partnership with the school, and students would have more choices.
Eating nutritiously while living on campus is difficult right now, but it doesn’t have to be in the future. With the help of more promotion, more on-campus options and more attention, locally grown food could protect our environment and keep us feeling fresh long past our foods’ expiration dates.
— Brittany Rudolph is a sophomore studying English and art history. Follow her @DailyWildcat