Cheap junk food affects healthy eating

Andy Ouriel and Andy Ouriel

Greasy and fattening foods in dining halls can be a tasty option for many students, but price is often the determining factor on what students choose to eat.

On average, including dining services at the University, healthier foods like fruits, vegetables, salads and grilled chicken are more expensive than unhealthier, fatty foods.

For example, a piece of pizza or a hamburger costs less than $2 in dining halls, a small bowl containing salad or fruit costs almost double the price.

Students like Freshman Brittney Shelton feel they should eat whatever is the most cost efficient to satisfy hunger.

“I judge [hunger] off whatever I want,” Shelton said. “I pass up vegetables for pizza because it’s filling and it costs less.”

As this semester is almost completed, many students like Shelton are running out of money on their meal plans and have to save as much as possible. This means more students will undercut themselves and end up purchasing unhealthy foods.

The University has no control over higher prices as the agricultural economy dictates the amount to charge for fruits and vegetables.

Daria Blachowski-Dreyer, nutrition initiative manager for University Dining Services says things like natural disasters and droughts have huge effects on price increases for healthier foods.

“The market is volatile,” Blachowski-Dreyer said. “We don’t raise and lower prices toward the market because the last three years food has gone up in price.”

Other factors like the cost of transportation and fuel drive the prices up for fruits, vegetables and grains to be delivered to the University.

Even at grocery markets, prices for healthier options are substantially more than the alternatives.

Something like a gallon of Kroger-brand milk is $3.19, while an equivalent drink like a 2 liter of Pepsi [$1.69] or Cherry Juicy Juice [$2.39] is cheaper and more attractive to a budget stricken student.

Sales associate for Kroger, Derek Earl, would like to see a dramatic change to the higher prices of healthy foods.

“I think America should be focused to make more efficient foods at lower costs,” Earl said. “Why go to Kroger to buy a healthy meal for three or four bucks when you could go to Burger King for one buck? Everyone wants to go the cheaper route.”

By working in a grocery market, Earl sees a trend of people being turned off by higher prices of produce, thus going for a different route of a quick and cheap meal.

“There is obesity in America because of fast food chains and unhealthy food sources. It is so cheap to buy,” he said.

Even though Blachowski-Dreyer says the amount of healthy and unhealthy choices are equal, with the salad bar constituting a great portion of the healthy food, the look of it can drive away students.

“They offer enough options, but not enough appealing options.” Shelton said. “[The] Mac salad bar does not look appetizing. It’s all about presentation.”

Many students like Shelton go for more attractive looking food, but it might not lead them to smart decision making regarding living a healthy lifestyle.

College is a place for students to make the right choices about their lives, but its starts with small, simple ones like choosing what to eat.

“People should be more conscious of what [they] are eating,” Earl said.

But most times when money is involved and students like Shelton have to maintain a budget, there is only once choice.

“You don’t have the money to spend,” she said. “[You are] pretty much stuck with the unhealthy option.”