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Friday, September 2, 2011

Magically Nutritious?


A handful of students have questioned me lately on something I wrote in an all-student e-mail about recent changes in dining services on campus: Specifically, seeing fewer unhealthy options on campus (ideally, none), and more healthy options. This is what got me into trouble:

“I am committed to healthy food options for students. So is ARAMARK. I would like to see only whole grain options in Mabee Hall (as opposed to processed flour), and I would also like to see less candy in the convenience store. I am on a one-man crusade to remove all white bread from the dining area (two-man crusade if you include President Ahlburg). I think I actually struck a deal with Miguel Ardid, Dining Services Manager, that he could keep serving donuts only if a whole grain alternative is offered. I have told ARAMARK that any cereal that includes primary or pastel colors needs to go.”

Based on recent feedback. Most people agree with me. Some students, though, have respectfully pointed out that it isn’t the place of the University -- or me -- to dictate what we serve (or don't serve) to students. I remember arguing in favor of a cigarette machine in our dorm when I was a smoking college student. My convenience mattered most. Lung disease not withstanding... Anyway, I appreciate having the respectful dialog, so thought I would take my case to the cyber-community. (Weigh in at the poll above right).

Personally, I would find it difficult to argue in favor of crummy food. An American obesity epidemic, food that is manufactured/slaughtered/sprayed/injected, and engineered. Factor in the lifestyle of the college student, and it seems that we have an obligation to do the right thing for our students. Couple that with the Student Affairs strategic plan that features a learning outcome specifically related to health and wellness. It is in our DNA.

What is more, the argument that we should offer students free choice in this matter seems erroneous to me. Trinity University is exemplary, I think, in allowing freedom of expression and thought both inside and outside the classroom. But it isn't a free-for-all in how we manage our operations. Though the law permits it, we don't allow hard liquor in the residence halls because it promotes binge drinking. (I know, not very effective as a deterrent.) We don't sell cigarettes or porn in the bookstore (though students get HBO in their rooms). We "force" students to do things all the time: We design a curriculum and we have a residency requirement, and we have a balcony policy similar to ones off campus, for example. Conversely,we sell and give away condoms in the bookstore and Health Services respectively. We also have a responsible friend (Good Samaritan) policy and offer cab vouchers through Tiger Bucks to make it easier to not drink and drive. These are things you get, when you choose us. We are not values-free. (And I'm not talking "family values.")

One thoughtful student mentioned wanting sweets or white bread and candy once in awhile. I have to admit, I do have a sweet tooth. I ate six cookies last night at the ASR meeting. Long meeting. I strive to eat healthy, but it seems no matter how well I eat in Mabee Hall, I always need a slice of cheese pizza as a chaser. But I wouldn't grab it, if it wasn't there. I wouldn't buy M&Ms either. My wife and I curse each other out whenever the other brings home family-size bags of the M&Ms. But we do have something called free will. We don't have to eat what is served or sitting on the counter. But we also easily fall to temptation. So why tempt? And yes, full disclosure, not only do I love Lucky Charms, but I love the chocolate kind! And my comfort food IS donuts.

So, I envision dining services where students and employees can have whole grain, made-from-scratch, organic, and natural food choices on a daily basis. And people will eat what is served. If we serve soda, and white bread, and sugary cereal, we are actually forcing unhealthy choices. That runs counter to our mission.

As with most things, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, no pun intended. I have framed this as all or nothing, but maybe that is extreme. I suspect that over time, we will see a decline in the unhealthy products and a corresponding growth in healthy options. I can have my way with a healthy menu, I suppose, but one that includes some latitude for those who once in awhile just want their donuts.

Per comments below. Click here to see some of the data that led us to review dining service option.

30 comments:

Digital Subway said...

I support your one-man crusade. I prefer whole wheat, didn't know it was also nutritious. ;) Now, I do. Your stance will prompt a discourse (a healthy one, hopefully) on which food items are healthy and which ones are not.

However, I miss donuts in Coates. I like donuts with my coffee and waiting for 20 minutes in Bagels line to get a bagel or cake makes me late for class. I miss those old days. ;)

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3D1WS8-rDM

Anonymous said...

Okay, first of all this isn't a matter of freedom of speech. IT'S FOOD and quite honestly you're doing no one a favor when you FORCE them to eat healthy. They need to learn to do it themselves. I can understand if you want more healthy options and if some junk foods get cut in the budget because of that, but total control of food options is ridiculous. Your "crusade" is at best an overzealous attempt at attention and at worst, a serious god complex. Who the hell gave you the right to dictate how students live even a fraction of their life? Plus there are benefits to junk food as well. During times of depression, candy sales rocket. Know why? because it's a quick fix to those down and under moments and at a university there are a lot of those. I'm not saying it'll completely stop suicide, but having nothing but "clean" foods will only serve to alienate a vast majority of the student body. Not to mention students will probably just find an alternative source of junk food, ultimately costing the school money. If you want healthier options, fine. Start a club, a bakery, another choice. Don't take away everyone else's freedom of choice.

David Tuttle said...

Dear Anonymous,

A part of me finds your comments preposterous. Another part of me has an inexpicable urge to smite ye down. Weird.

Anonymous said...

I agree with other anonymous person. Sometimes when I get sad I just need a candy bar and if I can't get it at school I'm just going to get it somewhere else which is really just a waste of gas :(
I'm also pretty healthy, and I like to have my dessert. A twinkie now and again won't kill me and they warm my soul :D

I'm a little disappointing that you didn't try to refute other anonymous person with a valid argument. I thought a fun debate was about to start!

Anonymous said...

2nd person! Nice spongebob link XD!! Totally fits!

Anonymous said...

I just feel as if it's a little contradictory....the dining hall has changed so that you get "all you can eat" for a large price (whereas before, buying less food cost less, and was motivation enough for me). I read an article this morning on MSN on how all you can eat leads to more obesity in college students.

I don't really understand why, on one hand, it was decided that Mabee should basically be a 24 hour buffet (which seems to me like it should encourage far more eating than the old diner, which didn't have things like limitless pizza/dessert/anything).

Also, just on a rather childish side-note, all the new changes and restrictions kind of chafe. Other than the improved quality of food, I haven't found anything I like more about this system than last year's-- no to-go option, a fixed price for bonus bucks students even if they just want a drink, Coates closing in the early evening and over the weekends. It sounds petty to become irritable over changes as mundane as this, but if the menu changes as cut whatever food is unhealthy enough, then I, for one, began feeling a little bit as if I am being treated like a student in jr high.

Anonymous said...

Oops, I forgot the other hand (in the second paragraph). Basically, the contradiction between "health crusade" and "all you can eat" in the same year don't make sense to me. Too much pushing for two seemingly different agendas at the same time.

David Tuttle said...

Okay, I can hardly keep up. Plus I don't know what's legit or if someone is trolling. So I will quit after this. I supported the healthy options for several years. The feedback from students was to have more healthy options and that continues to be the priority. Students also didn't like the ala carte pricing. So, the two don't have to be mutually exclusive. You can't call me out for being controlling for wanting healthy food options and then call me out for the not controlling people's lack of self control to over-eat.In both cases we are being responsive to student feedback and opinion.

Anonymous said...

Dean Tuttle, I appreciate and (on most days) agree with your campaign... but now I want M&Ms! :/ Thanks for your efforts, we really do appreciate it, despite all the growing pains.

Tom Tielleman said...

OK, Dean Tuttle. It's been nearly a year a half since I was terrorizing Aramark and ripping every small change on campus (such as this one) to pieces. So hold on tight, we're about to go for a ride.

As a person that literally ate at least 1-2 slices of Coates pizza every day as a mid day snack in my high-calorie burning life of sitting in the library all day, I gotta tell you that I couldn't agree more with what you're trying to do. Oh, what a plot twist! Did you see that coming? You were probably thinking, "ah crap, here comes Tom to ruin my day."

But seriously, I'd like to challenge my diet in college to absolutely anyone on campus. Mine was bad. It easily had to be 3,000 calories a day of pure junk food (thank you so much, Asian metabolism) Now that I'm in medical school, and I'm learning all of the crap that can go wrong with your body from eating this horrible stuff, I can't believe how bad my diet was.

Do I still eat pizza from time to time? Sure. But not nearly as often, and it's almost (scratch that almost, it is straight up) dumb/ignorant to not choose some healthier alternatives. "I don't want to eat whole wheat bread, I only eat white bread. If I don't get it, I'm going to start a movement about human rights!" Oh, shut up.

You don't want to rip into this guy who left the 3rd comment? Please, allow me to do so. Dude, you better be a troll b/c otherwise, you're a complete idiot and it makes me sad that I graduated from the school that you attend. Your argument makes absolutely no sense. You know what else goes up in times of depression? Illicit drugs. Know why? "Because it's a quick fix to those down and under moments." Let's all get those too! They're probably good for you as well!...Perhaps you're not making the best decisions for your health when you're sad. Did I just use a flimsy argument to make fun of yours? Yup. I'm a total hypocrite. Couldn't care less. I had the guts to put my name by mine. Grow up.

I too think that you should have a lot of healthy options available. By no means should, you take away all of the bad stuff, but I don't think the bad foods should predominate. Make it easier to pick a healthy option than it is to pick an unhealthy one. Eventually, you'll see a shift towards the 'cleaner' foods. We have the same situation here at my med school. We have 3 healthy places to eat and 2 bad places. The lines for the healthy stuff are always significantly longer. We also have the nutrition facts posted. Realizing that the burger and fries you're about to order is 2/3 of your daily calories and 125% of your daily fat will make some people think twice. If you don't get rid of the bad options, then let people know how bad they are. They'll get the message.

People are right to be mad if you take everything away immediately. Sadly, despite the ignorant arguments that you seem to be getting, they do have a point in the sense that change is hard to come by and it's not going to happen overnight. Make the majority of the options healthy. Eventually, you can wane people off and take away the garbage foods.

That's my two cents. Oh, and if someone replies to this (probably anonymously), I won't be seeing it. Feel free to look me up in T-mail. Man, I miss writing for the Trinitonian. Hope everything is going well, Dean Tuttle. Keep doing your thing.

-Tom

Anonymous said...

The previous anonymous comments are preposterous. Candy does not and will not prevent suicide. That statement is utterly ridiculous and disrespectfully downplays the seriousness of suicide.

I have eaten cereal for breakfast for 21 years, and my favorite (and now the only ones I choose) are whole grain, fiber-enriched cereals. I think people will be surprised by how good healthy cereals (and just healthy food in general) actually taste if they'll just give them a chance.

Also, all opposition to Dean Tuttle's TWO-man crusade (you have my support, too, DT) makes me think of the horrendous child in this Wife-Swap episode:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2T_obaO46Bo

Anonymous said...

For the love of God, put the Lucky Charms back.

Anonymous said...

A common statement when a change occures is that the students wanted the change. I would like for you to publish the documents and the study that go into these changes. Most business adminstrators go off of gut feel vs making a statistical scientific decision. Our business school discusses six sigma analysis, what anlysis did the school use. I can't believe females requested a point system for Mabee hall, where a glass of milk cost the same price as a Blutarsky size tray of food, an Animal House referrence. You want to fight obesisty, lets talk about portion control. What percent of the students did you discuss alternative option to last years plan. How many did you interview?

Ok, I have to point out that you can't bring a 40 something matabalism and compare it to a football player buring off 5000 calaries a day. Also, if you didnt have a wife talking to you about your diet after 20+ loving years together then it would not be considered a successful marrage.

But finally, if you would like for me to give you my suggestions, you need to allow the students to buy food at Mabee and take it back to their dorms where they can study and eat small snacks, yogart, fruit, etc. The Pizza has way to much grease on it. See if you can get a better quality alternative. The frozen pizzas from Costco are easier to eat. Einstiens is much better than Mabee and lines are to long because everyone knows it.

Anonymous said...

College Prowler rating Campus Dinning:

Trinity C

Rice A
Southwestern B-
University of Texas B+
Texas Christian B (Your son is doing better than we are)

Anonymous said...

How can you have 20 minutes lines at Bagels in a school of 2,400 kids? There must be something wrong with the food on campus. Why dont you do what that other poster said and ask a stats class to do a project on surveying the students on campus about the food. Getting a C by an outside organization is not good and we are an A institution.

Dean, I think you need to respond to these comments it makes it more fun. Maybe someone who runs Mabee should step in an defend their reputation.

David Tuttle said...

Some of you seem to want my ongoing participation, so I'll bite. I do enjoy the dialog. I also have Coates office hours this week at 2 pm Thursday, Sep. 8. Come chat in person.

Last year there were numerous articles in the Trinitonian and several on my blog,and Web page about the changes. We worked to get as much student feedback on the front-end. ARAMARK did surveys, focus groups, on the spot surveys, brought in people from other campuses, etc. ASR met with them several times, hosted a sparsely attended forum and then we held another to discuss the changes at which about four students attended. That's fine, and I get that, but to expect us to affirm all the research seems a bit arrogant. Professionals were involved in this and I urge you to consider that once in awhile people here know what they are doing. ASR, representing the students embraced the changes. I went through this with sophomore college and our metrics have climbed ever since. This is how it goes. In addition, I have advised ASR since 1994. Go look at the platforms candidates have run on (check Trinitonian archives). Dining. Our annual survey data reinforced issues with the dining services.I hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

It's about freedom of choice and trusting that people will do what is best for themselves at that particular moment. If you really care, start posting the nutritional facts of each meal where they are served and offer alternatives. Don't force people to eat your health foods.

David Tuttle said...

Oh, I care baby...

Charlie said...

Asking for Research Data, sourcing your research is NOT arrogant. Is that not what we learn in university, citing your sources? Is that not the equivalent of a "work cited" page? We should have access to this data you have based your findings on. Dean Tuttle, I would really love a blog post, article, or pamphlet (i.e paper) spelling out the changes and your justification for them, including the research data. This is not an outrageous request, it is simply the scholarly thing to do to doubt and do your own research. Seriously, I'm an english major, not just the sciences have to abide by the rules of citing sources.

David Tuttle said...

Charlie,

I'm not opposed to sharing it at all. It is more a time issue than a transparency one. I will ask ARAMARK for a summary. I guess the arrogance piece for me is that some assume we don't know what we are doing, assume we don't care about student feedback, and don't trust a process that was VERY inclusive and transparent. To come in afterwards and then ask for the data and claim that changes were made based on gut feelings is what rubbed me wrong. Especially when the general student body took little interest when given a chancce to offer input. And why should I spend time justifying something that has been done? People will see the data and then claim, "well, I wasn't included." Believe me, I have seen this before. But I will get some stuff together and let people know where it is available.

Anonymous said...

But why are the Lucky Charms gone?

David Tuttle said...

Oh, I forgot. The Lucky Charms are coming back.

Brock said...

Please stop saying ASR represents the students of Trinity. It is simply a collective of people who either had no opponents when they ran or had the more well known name. Given modern technology and the small size of Trinity some very important decisions like dining hall changes, community hall dissolution, and the new "no evening classes because then people have to make decision" rule could be voted on by each individual trinity student rather than just decided by a random group of people who want to put ASR on their resume. Maybe then you'd have less problems, if you gave more voting power to the students and took a little away from your own hands and those of ASR. Problems of involvement don't come from students not wanting to participate, it's from students not feeling like they can actually make a difference on campus.

wholesale tablets said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
David Tuttle said...

As promised, I am sharing some of the benchmarking information on dining services from the last couple of years. See the link at the end of the original post. That's a wrap for me.

Anonymous said...

I saw the data you posted. Thanks for doing that. I now see why the decisions were made they way they were. Can't wait until the next survey. I think you are going to a see a bigger issue with value and quality. I bet you will sit around and say, I think we made a bad decision and we need to go back to a price per item format like every other cafeteria in America. By the way tell the staff that melons are not the only fruit out there. How about a berry every now and then.

David Tuttle said...

Thanks Anonymous. Your facts are a little off. For example, of the 16 or so schools in the Associated Colleges of the South, only two still have ala carte programs. Those are becoming more and more rare. In terms of quality and variety I think it is way better now than in the past. I suppose that is subjective.

Anonymous said...

As an overweight college student, I am incredibly in favor of the movement towards healthier options. Despite what some of the other anonymous posters say, I think you're doing your students a great favor by reducing unhealthy choices. It's like you said, students wouldn't eat them if they weren't there. I applaud you for standing by the implemented decisions implemented (not calling them your decisions, because students did have input!)even in the face of some ridiculous criticism.
That said, I do have a couple notes... can we please get rid of the all you can eat dessert buffet in Mabee. It's too large a temptation. I think the pod could do with an influx of healthy choices (not necessarly eliminating the junk in there, just adding more healthy to-go options).
Thanks for all you do, Dean!

Anonymous said...

I would love if you did away with the unhealthy choices...they really are a temptation for me and for many people I know struggling to eat more healthy at Trinity. What you said about the M&Ms is so true...if they are there, and you want them, you MORE LIKELY than not, eat them. But if they aren't there, that's not a possibility. Yes, we need to have stronger self-control in a lot of dietary situations, but it WOULD be helpful if we had the support of our campus to encourage nutritious foods. Thanks!