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Witnessing a Revolution in Food Choices on College Campuses

fresh fair localby Merritt Blankenau

A new food trend is taking place on college campuses throughout the nation: more sustainable, environmentally-friendly, local, cultural, and lifestyle options in the cafeterias. Sitting next to a student at just about any given school’s dining hall, you will most likely find an iPhone, scrambled chem flashcards, and a plate of food infinitely healthier than chicken nuggets or mac-n-cheese. In fact millennials today have increasingly adopted the philosophy, “you are what you eat” and are trading in the cheeseburgers for vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and paleo options. 

For the first time many young adults are away from home making their own decisions, students are remarkably choosing to steer away from GMO’s to instead find merit in functional foods that foster a healthy lifestyle. This health movement is in great part implemented by university efforts to incorporate sustainable diet options for students of all backgrounds while bringing forth attention to the reality of the detrimental health dangers of the current Standard American Diet. 

Like fashion trends, the push towards a healthy lifestyle has sprouted along the, you guessed it, East Coast at many of the progressive-thinking universities. As a rising sophomore at decidedly western Texas Tech University, I have lifelong friends spread all over the map, with a good chunk of them attending school in various eastern seaboard cities. In fact, while visiting a friend in NYC in the fall of 2015, I not only found myself mooching off her exorbitantly priced meal plan, but while doing so, I stood in awe trying to decide whether to eat gluten-free fettuccine or soy orange chicken- options that didn’t currently exist at my school. 

eat localFast forward to present day fall of 2016, environment friendly choices that meet the needs of any health oriented individual are made readily accessible at various dining locations across Texas Tech’s main campus. According to Mindy Diller, the registered campus dietitian, the university’s Smart Choice Program has made “many strides in [their] nutritional support for gluten free and lifestyle choices for food and dining over the past three years” in addition to providing incoming freshman, “detailed menus and columns for quick references for vegan and vegetarian choices.” Thus, the sustainable health movement has made its way across the nation in an exceptionally short amount of time, hitting nearly every college campus in its path including right here in Albuquerque at the University of New Mexico. 

Chanel Wiese, an operations specialist in the dining and food services department at UNM, notes that UNM is part of an action plan to significantly reduce food and trash waste in addition to implementing various plant based menus in dining halls throughout campus. These comprehensive efforts have in succession, turned the minds of my generation off to genetically engineered “foods” and on to a selection that will give us the nutrients we actually need to flourish away from home. 

By exposing youth to food grown organically, locally, and sustainably, college campus dining halls are breaking the traditional American eating habits. Instead, diet options that nourish both the mind and body in the best way possible are taking shape one dorm meal at a time.

View this and other ag news in the September issue of Local Food Connections

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