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Nutrition initiatives

December 6 2012

By Kelsey Smith

In September, the New York City Board of Health approved a ban on the sale of large sodas and sugary drinks that will go into effect beginning March 12, 2013. It is the first ban of its kind in the country.

“This is the single biggest step any city, I think, has ever taken to curb obesity,” Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, said in a statement. “It’s certainly not the last step that lots of cities are going to take, and we believe that it will save lives.”
The ban prevents food and beverage retailers from selling any sugary drinks, including tea and soda, in containers larger than 16 oz.

Grocery and convenience stores, however, are exempt from the ban, and it does not apply to fruit juices, diet sodas, or dairy-based drinks, such as milkshakes and chocolate milk.

This ban follows New York’s trans fat restriction, which went into effect in 2008.
New York was also the first to require chain restaurants to post calorie information on their menus.

Taking a cue from New York, federal legislation passed in June requires all restaurant chains with 20 or more locations to include calorie information on their menus and on drive-thru signs.

The deadline for restaurants to provide this information has not been set.
However, major restaurant chains, such as McDonald’s and Panera Bread, have already begun including calorie information on their menus, and they are not alone in choosing to do so.

This semester Cleveland State’s dining services began including nutritional information on the dining service’s website for the Viking Marketplace.
This was a decision by Chartwell’s, they company in charge of the items served in CSU’s dining hall.

“There are no regulations for us to do this,” Jim Razzante, director of dining services, said. “Really, it’s our company knowing that more people, our students, are looking for that information.

So they’ve been working on this for a while, and it’s finally to the point where it’s posted on our website, but we’ve always had this information.”

After logging onto the dining services website, those interested can select the Viking Marketplace and see the day’s menu.

Next to each item is the calorie information, with the full nutrition facts available by moving the arrow over an item.

“The program we use uploads our menus, recipes, with all the nutritional information that our company has put together,” Razzante explained. “So when we put our menus together for each day, it’ll pull all of the information up so that it’s listed on the website.”

In addition to accessing information online, calorie information is also available on cards next to each item in the Viking Marketplace, and can be printed out by marketplace staff upon request.

Students also have the ability to go onto the website and set up a nutritional journal to keep track of what they are eating on campus.

“Our company has done research in that area, and a registered dietician has actually reviewed all of this stuff, Razzante said. “All of the recipes have to go through a process to get approved before it’s released to us to use, so it’s [the information] is pretty accurate.”

After updating the Viking Marketplace’s online menus to include nutrition information came the task of including nutrition for all of the other on-campus dining locations.
Nutritional information for national brands sold at Cleveland State, like Starbucks and Papa John’s, are provided by those companies.

The school has begun posting information for the house-made items, like prepackaged salads and sandwiches, on the site as well.

“I don’t know if the information will be printed on the packaging, but it will be available online,” Jim Siemasz, associate director of dining and residential dining director, said.
There are also plans to convert some of the vending machines on campus from the typical junk food to healthier snacks.

Currently the vending machines offer a limited number of healthy options, and, with the exception of the touchscreen machine in Main Classroom, do not reveal the calories or any other nutritional information.

“They’re going to be switching some of the vending machines over, they’re calling it Balanced You, it’s similar to the product we have and that’s going to provide information,” Razzante said. “I don’t know if they’re rolling that out now, but that is going to be coming.”

With these changes it’s clear the university is providing the information for students to make healthier choices and avoid gaining the “freshman 15.”

However, most students seem unaware of the changes.

“I didn’t know that they started posting that information,” Jammie Martin, a healthcare administration graduate student, said. “I think it’s a great idea, but I don’t think it will make a substantial difference in the way people eat and the food choices they make. But I do think it’s a step in the right direction to get students to start eating better and start utilizing the gym.”

Regardless of the effect it will have on the choices people make when it comes to food, soon they’re going to be face to face with the facts.

“I think the market will drive restaurants to provide nutrition information on menus more than any type of legislation will,” Siemasz said. “Look at McDonald’s, when you open up a package it’s all written in English and Spanish and that’s something they didn’t have to do, that was voluntary.”

To access Viking Marketplace nutrition information online, visit dineoncampus.com/csu.