The University of Mary Washington’s Eagle Dining team addressed a national trend of poor health by setting up nutrition labels in Seacobeck Hall, the Underground and the Eagle’s Nest early this semester.
The labels give information on a food item’s calories, fat and carbohydrate makeup, as well as the amount of cholesterol, sodium, sugar and protein in one serving. The Eagle Dining staff is currently working on making labels for every item they serve.
About 50 percent of Seacobeck items are currently labeled, with the rest to be completed by the end of the week. The Eagle’s Nest and the Underground will have labels set up shortly after that.
“For the health conscious consumer, it will be a helpful tool,” said Kori Dean, general manager of Eagle Dining and executor of the project.
The labeling is, in part, a response to a UMW dining survey last fall in which a great number of students requested more information about what they are eating.
Eagle Dining responded to the students’ requests, which are similar to other health initiatives outside of UMW.
Currently, 35.7 percent of U.S. adults are obese and the number is predicted to rise to 42 percent by 2030, according to a study completed by the Center for Disease Control in 2012.
Obesity puts people at a high risk of hypertension, type-two diabetes, heart disease, stroke, sleep apnea, gallbladder disease and much more, according to the CDC.
Dr. Tom Riley, university physician and director of the health center, hopes that the labels will have a positive outcome in helping students make healthy choices.
“For those trying to lose weight, food labels make you conscious, and so I think more people will make informed choices,” said Riley.
Riley has more ideas for a healthier dining environment. He suggests moving the dessert tables to a less central location and to include an ingredient lists alongside the nutrition labels.
“If I know something is terrible, I might second guess pigging out on it,” said sophomore Katie Turner, who appreciates the new labels.
Eagle Dining will continue to help students to manage their diet. By the end of February, dining staff will be close to completing QR, or quick response, codes for their food items as well. This is a type of barcode that students can scan with their smartphones. The scan will automatically upload nutrition information that will be linked to the popular app called My Fitness Pal.
My Fitness Pal can be helpful in maintaining a healthy lifestyle by tracking calories taken in during meals and calories burned during activity.
“We’ve always had nutrition information available on our website and in binders,” Dean said. “But these labels are the best in-your-face way to get information to you.”