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MacHall needs more healthy food options

By Emilie Medland-Marchën, January 15 2015 —

Smoke’s Poutinerie in MacHall was almost a frozen yogurt shop. While that’s still not the best choice for dinner, it’s much better than gravy-splattered fries.

The selection of food in MacHall is dismal. While a couple dollars gets you a microwaveable cup of soup from Stör, finding a meal that is both healthy and tasty is difficult. And a nutritionally balanced meal under $10? Impossible.

The University of Calgary does have a variety of health and wellness programs for students. The healthy eating guide offered by the Students’ Union Wellness Centre emphasizes “staying balanced” throughout university. While the guide addresses the importance of mental health and annual checkups, there’s hardly any mention of a healthy diet.

To address healthy eating, the U of C has a website you’ve probably never heard of — Eating Awareness Team — which minimally discusses the importance of healthy eating as an undergrad. But the website is hard to navigate, limited and looks like it hasn’t been updated since 2006.

The food on campus consists of a series of fast food outlets, a Dining Centre that resembles a cafeteria and two bars offering pub food. These services might cater to the cravings of stressed out students, but it’s not an environment where students will make healthy choices.

MacHall has only a few healthy options. Fuel for Gold makes an effort to prepare their food “naturally” and they use wholesome ingredients. It’s a good option, but a balanced plate costs between $12-$18, the price for a meal at a moderately-priced restaurant.

In the Dining Centre, most meals consist of high-carb and high-fat ingredients like sauce-covered pastas or bread and noodles. Plates are piled with cheaply-produced buttered noodles instead of lean meat and vegetables.

For their quality, Dining Centre meals are an expensive $10-$14. If you live in first-year or second-year residence, you’re required to purchase a meal plan, forcing students to eat at the Dining Centre. There are a few healthy options, but they’re poorly maintained and more expensive. Student’s shouldn’t have to pick between a few leaves of wilted lettuce and a cheeseburger that will keep them full for more than 20 minutes.

Developing healthy eating and living habits is crucial for university students. The skills we learn now set us up for adulthood — living on our own, cooking our own food and making independent financial choices. The habits we form now are often permanent. But the stress of university can lead students to develop lifelong unhealthy habits.

The SU, who leases space in MacHall to vendors, should create an environment that enables students to make healthy choices, not ones that are expensive and deep-fried. We can have discussion after discussion on healthy eating and making good choices, but until those options are easily accessible we can’t expect students to make choices that aren’t available to them.

There’s a lot of factors to blame for the lack of well-priced, healthy food in MacHall. No one is to blame, but everyone should be trying to fix it.

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