‘Meal Deal’ Promotes Bad Eating Habits Around UMW
By KOL GIESSEL
The less we know, the more we eat. As society becomes disconnected from its source of food, our health problems increase and our healthy eating habits deteriroate. These unhealthy habits are then reinforced by our educational system.
I watched my fellow students, Seacobeck employees and other staff members the other day in Seaco. I watched them load their plates with grease-drenched burgers, french fries and pizza, and fill their cups with sugary beverages. I eat in Seaco almost everyday and everyday I watch my peers poison themselves. I feel that the educational system in the U.S. has failed us. We are told to eat healthfully, but what does that mean? I don’t think most students would be able to give a clear and accurate answer to that question. I think the root of this issue comes from the growing disconnect between what we eat and where it comes from.
The majority of UMW students do not know how to grow vegetables and harvest them in a sustainable and healthful way. We are making great strides to change that with the implementation of programs like the Community Garden, a small garden being planted in the UMW Apartments, but only a handful of students are truly invested and interested in the project at this point. When we have to nurture and care for our source of nourishment, we become more aware of what we put in our bodies. It becomes more than something tasty; it becomes survival and an emotional experience. Furthermore, our educational institutions and corporations reinforce unhealthful eating habits.
Let’s look at what constitutes a meal at UMW. At Seacobeck a meal is “all you can eat.” At Vocelli’s Pizza, a meal is two pieces of bread topped with cheese and tomato sauce. At WOW Wingery, a meal is four pieces of breaded and fried chicken served with fried potatoes. None of these meals are in accordance with the U.S. government dietary guidelines. None of these meals are well balanced or nutritional enough to constitute a healthy meal. What UMW calls a “meal deal” is far from a healthy meal. In the long run, these habits can have a severe impact on our health.
The University says it is training us to be citizens engaged in a diverse and global society, but they are sweeping a critical issue under the rug: health. Part of being a good citizen and respecting others is respecting what goes into our bodies. When we lose sight of our individual health there is no way we can serve communities to our full potential. Only when we respect our bodies, and what we put into them, can we truly respect each other.
What we eat affects not only our physical health, but our mental and spiritual health as well. I urge the University to rename the “meal deal” system because calling two slices of pizza a meal and calling unlimited eating a meal reinforces unhealthful eating habits. It creates a false image of what constitutes a meal. Students, faculty, staff and administration are being taught unhealthful eating habits without even realizing most of the time. I ask that we eat more consciously, more ethically and with nutritional optimization in mind.