Students petition for healthier food options

Originally published in The Globe February 5, 2014

Students are still pushing for healthier food, but this time through the University’s student government and an independent petition with the hopes of expanding vegetarian and vegan options.

“We just weren’t excited to get food,” said Sierra Barnett, a freshman modern dance and sports, arts and entertainment management double major, outside of a dance studio Jan. 17.

Barnett is among many students who have signed a new petition for healthier food.

She said her inspiration for change came when her jazz class spoke with a nutritionist and the topic transitioned into the University’s options.

According to Barnett, fellow dancer and freshman jazz dance major Elizabeth Rohm’s nutritionist suggested she start a petition after hearing about the issues students had with University food.

Rohm began the petition last semester, but has since transferred and was unable to be reached for comment.

The goals of the petition are to use healthier ingredients and reduce the amount of fried and other unhealthy food to allocate those resources for healthier options.

“We’re not trying to overthrow the system,” Barnett said. “We really just want to improve the integrity of our food.”

Although the petition was started by Barnett’s jazz class, the changes the proposal is pushing for would benefit the entire University, according to Barnett.

“This is not just for the dancers,” Barnett said. “We all need to know what’s in our food, what we’re getting when we eat in the dining hall or café.”

The movement for healthier food has just begun. According to Barnett, the biggest challenge is getting people informed and getting the proposal seen by the University.

“There’s not a lot of passion yet,” Barnett said. “Right now we’re just trying to get recognition and validation from the administration.”

Although Jaimie Cherok, food service director for Aramark, has yet to see the petition, she said that Point Park offers healthy vegetarian and vegan options in the Lawrence Hall Dining Room and Point Café. Cherok said she is open to student input.

“We are committed to meeting the needs of all students and encourage them to reach out to us with any special requests or dietary restrictions and needs,” said Cherok in an email interview Feb. 2.

With issues like these, the United Student Government (USG) is the liaison between student complaints and food service.

USG President Dillon Kunkle and Vice President Evan Schall have monthly meetings with Cherok and communicate students’ food complaints to the dean of students, Keith Paylo.

“We’re very much representative of the students’ voice and what the students want,” said Kunkle Jan. 20 in the Student and Convocation Center.

The changes seen have largely been on an infrastructure level, such as consistent menus and employee training.

“There were a lot of changes with the new food service director,” said Kunkle. “What we needed was to define food service. Thankfully we’ve mostly moved away from that now. Now we can move onto healthier options and vegetarian and vegan options.”

Students’ voices are being heard, but now it is a waiting game to see results.

“We know what the students want,” Kunkle said. “We know what they’re complaining about. Thankfully we’ve been heard on a higher level of the Aramark hierarchy. For now, we’re looking for results.”

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