A farmer’s market at the University of Vermont Wednesday was one of 70 nationwide this week cohosted by the foodservice giant Sodexo that were aimed at encouraging healthier eating on campus.
“The idea, forty years ago, that things were coming out of the freezer and just being heated and served—that’s not the case today,” said Marissa Watson of UVM Dining, a division of Sodexo.
Watson said the era of chicken fingers and tater tots has made way for recipes from scratch, with just over a fifth of the food at UVM now coming from local sources—defined as being from Vermont or within 30 miles of its borders.
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“I’m actually pretty impressed,” UVM first-year student Katrina Seeberger said. “As much as a dining hall can have variety, there is some variety.”
“The UVM dining halls aren’t as bad as you would think when you think of stereotypical college food,” observed Mia Papageorge, a UVM sophomore. “It’s not just all pizza, burgers, and fries.”
Julie Davis, a master’s student in dietetics, is working on a project analyzing the diets of UVM students. She acknowledged that research from Northwestern Medicine and Northeastern Illinois University, published in 2014 in the journal Preventive Medicine, indicated the vast majority of undergrads fail to eat enough fruits and vegetables.
“There still is more work to do,” Davis said, but noted she is very encouraged by what she sees at UVM as shifting student tastes. “They’re demanding healthier options. They’re demanding more options related to vegetarian food or vegan food.”
The university points to a wellness-focused dining hall that not only stresses fresh ingredients but also teaches cooking classes as another example of ways UVM is promoting healthier lifestyles among students.
“When they live off campus, [meals] can’t just be ramen and frozen pizza—they have to learn how to cook,” chef and cooking instructor Sarah Langan said in 2017 when necn covered the opening of the dining hall as part of its Central Campus residential life complex.
For the future of food on campus, Watson predicted a growing awareness of carbon footprints, betting more students will soon make more choices based on how delivery distances and production methods impact the planet.