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SMC posts dining information online healthy eating habits

Emily Lavelle | Monday, October 3, 2005

In comparison to the pressures of earning good grades, adjusting to life away from home and keeping up with work-study jobs, the challenge of eating healthily is generally the least of a student’s concerns. But Sodexho, the food service provider at Saint Mary’s, has made it easier for students to make good decisions when it comes to the dining hall.

Barry Bowles, the general foods manager of the Noble Family Dining Hall at Saint Mary’s, said he understands the difficulty in making healthy choices. In an effort to aid students with this problem, Bowles has worked to get the nutritional information for all the foods offered in the dining hall posted online.

“We posted the information because students wanted it,” Bowles said. “We received comment cards requesting the information and decided that students should have access to it.”

The information is taken from a large database provided by Sodexho, the food service supplier of Saint Mary’s. It includes serving size, calorie content, sodium, protein and carbohydrate information. Bowles said that although this is the second year the information has been posted, the majority of students are unaware of this online feature.

“We are working to promote the fact that students now have access to the information,” he said. “We are also working on educating students on how to access it and use it.”

In order to promote the new Web page, Bowles hopes to add a computer kiosk with instructions on how to access and use the site in the dining hall.

Kate Wallach, the Student Services Commissioner for Saint Mary’s, said she hopes that once students are aware of this feature, they will take advantage of it.

“The information can be extremely beneficial for athletes and other students who are concerned about eating a healthy, balanced diet,” she said.

Although the information may be useful, some students are doubtful they will use the online feature. Many, like junior Kristin Kania, said they will not have time to look up the information.

“Although I would like to know about [the nutritional information], I am too busy to look it up online,” Kania said.

However, many students have positive responses to the availability of the information.

“I wouldn’t look at [the nutritional information] everyday, but I would look at it every once in a while to see how balanced my diet is,” senior Jennifer Robbins said.

Freshman Chevonn Fant said she would probably consult the site “about every two weeks.” Junior Kristin Heath, who already checks the dining hall menus online about twice a week, said she will start checking the nutritional information whenever she checks the menu.

Junior Molly White said although she is in favor of posting the information online, she worried it might enable students with disordered eating habits.

“I think someone who did [have an eating disorder] might use this information to further hurt themselves,” she said.

Wallach said she felt this would not be a problem.

“This [online feature] is designed to help, not hurt people,” she said. “Instead of avoiding the dining hall, now students will know what they can eat to have a balanced diet and be healthy.”

Bowles said if more students access the Web site, its usefulness can be logged. However, he said he does not believe posting the information will have any negative effects on students.

“This Web site is only designed to educate,” he said. “I encourage students to log on and see what it’s all about and learn about living healthy lifestyles.”