Food health is concern for students and Blugold Dining

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Story by David Burish , Staff Writer

The United States Department of Agriculture began to tighten the requirements for school lunch programs last January.

“The final rule” mandates school lunch programs to be in alignment with the dietary guidelines for Americans. Such as lowering trans and saturated fat counts and providing a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Such changes are lower caloric counts for kindergarten through fifth grade (550-650 calories) and for ninth to twelfth grade (450-600 calories). Also the addition of whole-wheat products and low fat milk need to be available every day in a more diverse food rotation.

While these changes have happened this school year for children all across the country, over 32 million students use school lunch programs. Universities are not affected by these new changes but are still under the guidelines of the USDA.

So the question is, what has Blugold Dining done about providing healthy options for UW-Eau Claire students?

Christian Wise, general manager and executive chef of Blugold Dining, said healthy options are available as well as not so healthy options.

“Basically what we have to do is present a series of options that you can eat healthy,” Wise said. “If we took away hamburgers and french fries and we took away soft drinks and anything that even resembled anything that could be slightly bad for you, the students would hate us.”

Wise said the new restrictions for school children make sense but students at Eau Claire have the option to choose for themselves.

“We go ahead and let you make your own decisions,” Wise said. “(Student) thought is that you’re paying for it so you should be able to get what you want and that you’re adults and shouldn’t be restricted.”

Students recognize the need to eat healthy, as well. Jessica Tamblyn, freshmen vocal performance major, enjoys her soup and salad for lunch and notices a difference between upper and lower campus.

“On lower there are definitely healthy options, on upper there’s one salad bar and a sandwich place,” Tamblyn said.

Freshmen Mary Waterhouse, music education major, would also like more diversity of healthy options.

“More variety of fruits, good fruits,” Waterhouse said. “It’s always apples and bananas and it’s there everyday.”

Wise said Blugold Dining is continuing to improve the dining experience by adding more local products and doubling their local purchases from 10 to 20 percent.

“Blugold Dining makes 80 percent of the food from scratch,” Wise said. “We take our obligation to provide good food seriously.”

Even though students ask for more healthy options on campus, Tamblyn thinks Blugold Dining is a success.

“Compared to other colleges for sure we have a really good dining program here,” Tamblyn said.

Susan Kueger, senior lecturer for the biology department and registered dietician, said that it is important for college students to eat whole-wheat foods and watch their sodium.

Part of the course Krueger teaches at Eau Claire shows students how to track their diet habits. She has noticed that most students are low on fiber and high in sodium. These kinds of eating habits can lead to a higher chance of type two diabetes, Krueger said.

“In the last few years, I have had a number of students, usually after the semester, come up to me and say that they have been tested and found that they have pre-type two diabetes,” Krueger said.

Krueger said that pre-diabetes is a condition that makes some people have a higher chance of getting type two diabetes. She said through balancing a healthier diet and getting more exercise, you can delay the onset and even prevent getting diabetes.

Krueger and Wise are both in agreement that students at Eau Claire are adults and are capable of making their own dietary choices.

“They are adults,” Krueger said. “They have to make that decision themselves. You can’t have people dictating what they can and cannot eat.”

Blugold Dining provides all of their nutrition facts for their menu on the Eau Claire website.