Healthy vending means more than water

The University of Alabama and Bama Dining, in particular, have made great strides over the last few years toward expanding healthy eating options on campus. Dining halls now feature calorie counts prominently posted near each food item. Lakeside has fresh fruit, and it has added a gyro bar.

These efforts make my job as a campus ambassador much easier, because I can impress prospective students and their families with a seemingly limitless array of options on recruiting lunches. However, without the same zeal for campus health present in vending machines, as is evident in dining halls, the more than 34,000 students currently enrolled at The University of Alabama are left in the nutritional lurch.

For instance, when I wanted to grab orange juice on the way to my 9:30 a.m. class in Nott Hall this week, I had to bike past Nott to Lloyd Hall, grab juice, stand in the 12-person line to pay, be “that guy” fumbling to get my ACT card in and out of my bag and then jog to Nott to make it to class on time (and out of breath.) If only one of the two Pepsi spots in the Nott vending machine was replaced with a juice option, my morning would have started on a much less stressful (and sweat-laden) note.

As an economics major, I am not suggesting that the University sacrifice its prized profitability for student health benefits. Rather, as a member of the Computer-Based Honors Program, I recommend that the Capstone look to its recent computerized sales data from its many campus groceries, determine which healthy drink option is the top seller and stock it in all drink machines on campus.

Some students may protest saying it is unnecessary since all vending machines sell bottled water, but I and other health-minded students have many reasons for believing H2O is not enough. Yes, water hydrates, but bottled water is cost-ineffective for most college students and does not provide the same health benefits as juice. Orange juice, on the other hand, provides vitamin C, protects against inflammation, improves blood pressure and decreases LDL cholesterol. Apple juice provides calcium, potassium, iron and even carbohydrates. Students also need an occasional dose of sugar to keep their energy levels high and they should not have to turn to soft drinks to get it.

If vending alternatives are what it takes to make me and my classmates happier and healthier, then I better see some juice in Nott before Easter.

 

Leigh Terry is a sophomore majoring in economics. Her column runs biweekly on Wednesdays.

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