Campus Nutritionist Speaks Out on Campus Food Debate

In light of all the recent negative media attention given to the campus dining services, I would be grateful if you would publish this editorial in the upcoming issue of the Western Carolinian.

It is a sad commentary on human nature that no matter how good things are in the world, people will always find something to complain about. On college campuses nationwide, students are picking on food service and parking.

I am a neutral party when it comes to food-service at Western, as I am not employed by Aramark, and I am not expected to support the dining services. In addition, I have both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in nutrition, and am a good judge of the nutritional quality of food. I regularly eat at all of the dining halls and talk with on-campus and off-campus students about their dietary habits. Lastly, I am an amateur gourmet cook, and consider myself to have good taste when it comes to overall food quality. With all this said, I’d like to share what I think of the food on campus.

The food served on campus is good. No, make that great There is as much variety on campus as there is in all of Jackson county. Here we’ve got Italian, Mexican, home-cookin’, and Asian cuisine, burgers, pizza, salad bars, delis, smoothies, a coffee bar, a sub shop, a Boston-Market style venue, veggie burgers, humus, quesedillas, baked potatoes, fresh fruit, and all-you-can-eat dining hall, etc. In fact, there are nearly 30 different venues. If I ate on-campus twice a day, five days per week, I could eat at a different locations for three weeks. I’d only have to eat at each place six times a semester. And students complain there is no variety! That’s because most folks eat at the UC most of the time. I’d get tired of my favorite restaurant if I ate there everyday, and I’d sure get sick of Chic-Fil-A.

Also keep in mind that dining services is serving to the tastes of football players, cheerleaders, people raised on country-style cooking, people who prefer contemporary and eclectic cuisine, those on low-fat diets, those following high-protein diets, vegetarians, and people on special diets for chronic conditions. It is difficult to cater to such a diverse group within a relatively small student body.

Finally, I want to praise all of the food service employees who have managed to keep their chins up and continue to attempt to please the students by constantly upgrading and changing based on student input, no matter how tactless it can be. Based on student feedback, hours have been extended; next smester Dodson will be open all day on Sunday; combo meals are available; cheesebread can be found at Brown; tofu has been placed on the salad bars; calzones, the wokery, and baked potatoes have been added; milkshakes are available at Freshens; you can buy chicken tenders at Chic-Fil-A; the deli replaced the Grainery; humus, quesedillas, and fococcia bread can be found at Cyber Cafe, etc. Discussion has started to offer Sbarro’s in the fall. Also in response to student concern, some retail prices have been lowered and prices are being evaluated to ensure they compete with fair market value.

In summary, the food tastes great, there is a huge variety available, and I find the prices comparable to anywhere in the area. I doubt off-campus students get nearly the variety and nutritive quality in their food selection.

Karen White, MS, RD, LDNCampus Nutritionist and Nutrition Facutly