Hood College Food; Aramark Can Do Better

Hood students fork over premiums for lackluster yet super priced “healthy” food options.

Every day across the Hood College campus students make a huge decision; what do I want for lunch? While we have three distinct options immediately available to us, has anyone actually taken the time to look at the cost and quality of what we are being offered?
Commonly known as “The Freshman 15” among other things, college students often gain unwanted weight throughout their semesters of higher education. It is not to say that this is not the fault of the students and their food choices, however their dining decisions are coupled with the need for fast, accessible, and affordable food that will satisfy their hunger.

The problem before us is not new. Food Inequality is an issue across the United States. In urban areas, the availability and affordability of fresh and healthy food is far from acceptable. On Food Day, Hood College hosted and event in which the epidemic was looked into further and the reality of the situation is appalling.

In her 30-minute Food Day lecture at Hood College, author Natasha Bowens “Sprinkle(d) through unpacking this (Food Justice), and it’s some heavy stuff.” In urban areas, the cost of affordable fresh produce is through the roof. While Bowens’ lecture was directed more so to the need for people of color to gain ownership in the healthy food movement, Hood college students need see the reality as well.
At the Blazer, a student can buy a meal consisting of a cheeseburger, French fries, and a soft drink for around nine dollars. However; a salad alone rings in around six dollars. Add in a drink or a yogurt parfait and you’re well over ten dollars.

Think about this: a salad in a box is primarily lettuce. Lettuce costs around two dollars a head and dressing is around three dollars a bottle. Add a bag of croutons and some cherry tomatoes and we’re close to nine dollars. These basic ingredients can make around five of the salads being offered for nearly the same price.

Go to Coblentz Dining hall and hit the salad bar and you’ll fork over around twelve dollars for the experience. This is more expensive than local restaurants that are serving high quality farm fresh foods. This is ridiculous. If the bulk of students had the time and transportation; they perhaps would be going to the grocery store one mile away to get the foods they actually want and their bodies actually need.

College students are constantly learning about the need to make good decisions concerning their diets, but are they really set up for success?

Hood College is nestled in a small urban environment, however the community surrounding Frederick is highly agrarian. Farms scattered across the terrain produce a multitude of healthy crops. In these rural and suburban towns, the farmers are feeding their communities. Urban communities like those in the city of Frederick and the campus of Hood College need to be more food secure.

Our food system needs to be changed because it is broken. Our urban community needs to support local farmers. Our bodies need the support of our local farmers. Why are we paying a premium for a plastic wrapped apple that was trucked in when we could be buying crates of delicious local apples right down the road?

Why do we have to choose greasy burgers when healthy food is just within our reach?

At the Blazer, John Curran opted for a mozzarella and tomato panini. While it was better than a burger, he said it was “watery” and “runny.” This should never be a descriptor for a panini.

On a separate adventure, Curran opted for a Caesar Salad. He said the chicken was rubbery and the croutons were “mush.” His meal was less than enjoyable and the expression on his face said it all.

Another student, John Braun, weekly opts for the veggie burger. When asked how it was, the only word given was “edible.” This needs to stop.

Rather than punish their palates, some students are turning to local co-ops such as the Common Market. Situated not far from campus, the Frederick, Maryland food co-op operates a full service organic grocery store and health food center. The offer a daily hot food bar and an assortment of sandwiches and smoothies.

Why is Hood College not producing something like this? We have a greenhouse. We have access to local farmers. We have business minded individuals capable of creating, marketing, and maintaining a sustainable food source. Why are we so invested in the corporate grease being dished out to us?

Some students among us hail from family farms. Jeanne Robinson, a Hood College senior studying Communications, attended the Food Day Event and reflected on her own family’s struggle for healthy food options despite living on a rather sustainable farm.

About accessibly to quality food, she said, “There used to be three grocery stores in the county my family farm is on, while there was one when I was born, now we’re down to none. We do live in a certified food desert. We’re about 35 miles from the nearest grocery store.”

Miles and miles of farm, but not an accessible veggie to be found. Affordable and healthy fresh foods without hassle should not be a dream for college students, or anyone for that matter. We need to stop the consumption of what is put in front of us and push for something better.

When asked about what Frederick could do in the way of Food Equality in downtown Frederick, Bowens said, “We have a few spaces that could be grocery stores. We are up against some pretty powerful beasts here in Frederick. We hit a wall when it comes to what is possible and who owns these buildings. Food deserts: a mile away from any grocery store. I’d love to see a grocery store, a food warehouse…while supporting our local growers. We need to keep working together.”


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