At the University of Florida, only 26.6 percent of students meet their daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, according to the 2016 Healthy Gator Survey.
The Healthy Gator Survey is a comprehensive health survey that has been conducted by GatorWell every three years since 2008. GatorWell’s Health Promotion Specialist, Natalie Rella, worked alongside other GatorWell employees to conduct this survey.
“At GatorWell, we work in health promotion, and we value being data driven in our efforts,” Rella said. “We don’t sit around a table and think about what we would consider important for students, we want to get the perspective of the students.”
The Healthy Gator Survey is an online questionnaire that is sent out to roughly 1,500 random students. The number of students surveyed was enough to generalize this information to UF’s student body as a whole, Rella said.
According to the results of the survey, there has been a decrease in the number of students meeting their daily servings of fruits and vegetables since 2010.
“Unfortunately, [the results] were not surprising. I would say probably most Americans have this pattern of eating, and it may be a bit harder for students due to their packed schedules,” Rella said.
It is possible for students to get their daily servings of fruits and vegetables through the meal plan, Rella said. It all comes down to the choices a student makes.
Of course, there are more unhealthy choices than healthy choices on campus, Rella said. However, Gator Dining has been recognized for their efforts in offering students the choice of vegan entrees.
These vegan options may not be as enticing to some students as the unlimited slices of pizza, but vegan entrees have been a part of the dining hall since the early 2000s.
Jill Rodriguez, Marketing Manager for Gator Dining, said that offering these vegan stations has significantly helped Gator Dining become one of the most vegan-friendly dining halls in the nation.
“It was in 2013 that we were recognized as number one in the country for being vegan-friendly,” Rodriguez said. “The following year, they switched the grading scale to a letter grade, and we have maintained an A.”
Gator Dining has several healthy options to choose from, Rodriguez said. Both the Fresh Food Company and Gator Corner Dining Center have full salad bars; whole, skim and soy milk; fresh fruits; grilled and baked proteins and many more healthy foods options.
“The dining hall menus are designed to provide a diverse assortment of food options that easily allow students to select a healthy and well balanced diet,” Rodriguez said.
In addition to the efforts of Gator Dining, UF also coordinated with three other universities across the nation to organize a USDA grant-funded project called “Get Fruved.”
Although this is an ongoing research project, students involved in the research project at UF decided to start a club called “The Fruvement,” which is dedicated to promoting overall wellness to students.
Fourth-year nutritional sciences major and Executive Director of The Fruvement at UF, Brooke Denton, was one of the original students involved with the research program, and is very passionate about spreading awareness of healthy eating.
“When you go to college, it’s very easy to lose track of the way you ate at home,” Denton said. “I ate at the dining hall my freshman year, and I was able to eat healthy, but that’s because I was very mindful of what I ate.”
“The Fruvement prides themselves on their dedication to educate students on how to live a healthy lifestyle”, Denton said. The Fruvement works closely with other organizations on campus in order to reach as many students as they can.
“A huge part of our organization is our task force,” Denton said. “Our task force is in charge of reaching out to other organizations to collaborate and spread the word about healthy eating and living a healthy lifestyle.”
Getting students to eat their fruits and vegetables everyday is not something that is going to happen overnight. With the help of organizations on campus, more students will become aware of their eating habits.
By Catie Wegman