Community / Opinion

Dana Hall’s Dining Center Should Publicize Meals’ Nutritional Value

Dana Hall’s Dining Hall provides healthy delicious food to students every day. However, I would love to see the Dining Hall include the nutritional value of food and put up posters about a healthy meal.

Publicizing nutritional information will help students make better choices when they eat in the Dining Hall. The posters and widely available nutritional information will help students be more conscious about their meal choices and therefore make healthier decisions. Currently, Dana Hall’s food labels include allergens but do not include any information about the nutritional value. The only nutritional value of food available to students right now are milk, bread, and cereal which are provided by the manufacturers.

According to Donna Corrigan, Dean of Residential Life, and Peter Kourafalos, Director of Dining Services, Dana Hall’s current meals and food are designed to provide students and the Dana Hall community with a healthy balanced diet. Nutritionists also work with Dana Hall to make sure that all food groups are available to students and the meals are nutritious. 

The problem with eating nutritious meals in Dana Hall is not that healthy foods are unavailable to students but rather that some students might constantly choose to eat a less nutritious meal. This has an especially larger impact on boarding students, who often eat all three of their meals in Dana Hall.

According to Mr. Kourafalos, Dana Hall is “working on“ publicizing the nutritional value of meals, but the main challenge lies in providing accurate information for the hot meals and having enough time and staff to create the labels. Unlike finished products, food cooked in Dana Hall does not have a pre-made nutrition label. Therefore, creating a nutrition label would require looking at every single ingredient and breaking down their nutritional value to calculate the final product’s nutrition, and because Dana Hall doesn’t recycle the menus creating these nutrition labels would require a lot of work. 

In addition, Dana Hall’s dining staff currently does not have the time to create nutritional labels. These labels will need to be about the size of the current food cards in the Dining Center. A typical food label is much larger than the size of the card. The nutritional value will therefore need to be re-typed but this will take up too much time for the Dining Hall Staff.

In the short term, the Dining Hall can start small by publicizing the nutritional value of fruits and food in the salad and sandwich bar because the ingredients remain largely unchanged and the nutritional information of these ingredients is readily available on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s website. The Dining Hall should also add posters about healthy meals in the dining hall. Proctors and students who are willing to volunteer can also help create the signage to decrease the workload of the dining hall staff.

In the long term, Dana Hall will need to increase its budget for the Dining Center and hire more staff to ensure that the nutritional value of all food will be available to students. This will be able to help students who want to eat healthier but are not constantly thinking about the components of a healthy meal.

On a typical nutrition label, the calorie count is the first on the list and the most prominent with its bigger and bolder font. However, this might cause problems with eating disorders and negative body image if an emphasis is placed on calories. Therefore, Dana Hall’s nutrition labels should make the calories count the same size as all other information and place caloric information lower on the list of nutritional values.

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