Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"Bad Food on Campus"

So my series on Ottawa Hospital Food sure has sparked some talk.

Happily I received many a call from dietitians and doctors at the Heart Institute who strongly supported my contention that Heart Institutes' shouldn't be serving unhealthy foods.

I also received a bunch of emails and for today's post, I'm going to include one in it's entirety (with the author's permission). It's about food in Canadian Universities and I think it does a great job highlighting shortcomings therein and in the end those in our atrocious Food Guide.

Oh, and that picture up above. That's from the cafeteria at the University of Guelph (click it to get a better view of all the healthy goodness).

Here's the letter,


I think you are doing great work by exposing the poor nutrition in hospital food. You may also want to expose the poor nutrition offered on University campuses.

The thing about hospital food is that when you leave the hospital, you can go home and cook nutritious meals for yourself. Thousands of Canadian university students do not have this option. This past school year, I lived in a university residence for the first time. I cannot describe adequately how shocked I was about the poor quality of food offered. We had pizza at least three times per week, mashed potatoes that were stretched with a paste of flour and water and most meats were processed deep fried cutlets. The food had so much sodium that it burned my tongue. Although there was a salad bar, most of the contents were mayonnaise salads and leftovers. Fresh vegetables were scarce and often wilted.

Although I am considered obese with a BMI of 38, I have always been conscientious of consuming healthy food. Never before was I in a position where I had no choice but to eat deep fried, high sodium, high calorie food every day. As you would expect, I quickly gained 25 lbs within 3 months of living in residence. Thankfully, I have lost those 25 lbs since returning home.

Not everyone is prone to weight gain as I am. Many of the students were able to maintain their weight or only gain a few pounds extra, but their health was deteriorating. Others had BMIs of over 40. I met many young students who were suffering from high cholesterol and high blood pressure. People in their early 20s should not be suffering from high blood pressure and high cholesterol and I am positive that their health problems are associated with the type of food they are forced to eat while living on campus. I must insist the proper word to use is ‘forced’ because there are rarely kitchens available for student use and depending upon the university, a zero vacancy rate off campus.

Perhaps the most striking thing about my experience with campus food is how these cafeterias proudly conform to the Canada Food Guide. When the cafeteria worker dishes out a dinner platter that consists of a cup of white rice, a cup of white pasta, a cup of mashed potatoes, 2 oz of deep-fried, breaded meat, a scoop of frozen peas and carrots, a bowl of something called pizza soup, and a bowl of ice cream all while pointing to the Canada Food Guide for justification—then something is very wrong
Are you a University student or have similar campus stories? Do you want to send me some pics of the "healthy" food at your cafeteria? Feel free!

[Thanks very much to the reader who sent me such a thoughtful and interesting letter]