Published September 3, 2015
A new study of college and university students’ takeout eating habits has ranked UB students No. 1 in making healthy food choices compared to students at more than 100 other colleges and universities.
The rankings are the result of an analysis by online food-delivery company www.grubhub.com. The company, which says it serves more than 20 million meals each quarter, analyzed delivery orders sent to colleges and universities in 47 states during the 2014-15 academic year.
The site looked at more than 30 indicators of health, such as ordering salad over fries, brown rice over white, going light on dressings and toppings, and ordering more veggies. The survey results then were ranked by school based on how many students made healthy choices, putting UB students in first place.
UB dining officials say they have consistently heard students talk about eating healthier: “What we really want are more vegetables, fruits and whole-grain foods.” Over the past several semesters, campus dining staff and management have noticed some unmistakable shifts. Not only are students saying they want healthier food options, they are actually eating that way.
“Students are really starting to get educated about what they are putting into their bodies,” says Jeff Brady, executive director of Campus Dining and Shops. “The GrubHub survey showed UB students making smarter food choices and that is what we are seeing here on campus as well.
“We serve five different varieties of hummus, three-grain salads, lots of fresh vegetables and salad bars — a wide variety of fresh foods — all year long. And we go through all of it, every day.”
Brady says the healthier habits also are evident in the amount of local produce that students consume.
“The amount of local produce that we buy increases every year. As a result, we are spending more time with our local growers to better understand their seasons. As one example, we helped one grower plant and harvest broccoli for their past season, then brought it back to campus and served it fresh several different ways in the dining halls. We went through all of the broccoli that we had.”
Brady also notes there has been a noticeable switch from regular milk to soy milk, which has substantially more calcium than regular milk. “It’s a great healthy choice — we’re going through about four times as much as last year,” he says.
“Our students are open to trying different things, going outside of their comfort zones. They are foodies.”
Brady noted that UB Campus Dining and Shops is starting off the 2015-16 academic year with $3.5 million in renovations, eatery improvements and new menus, further increasing the number of healthy options available this year.
UB campus dining officials say many food changes also come about from their surveys of the UB community.
“Results in our annual National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) Customer Satisfaction Survey show there has been a steady increase in how important ‘nutritional content,’ ‘variety of healthy menu choices’ and ‘variety of vegetarian options’ are here at UB,” Brady says.
When asked how important nutritional content was, 86 percent of UB students responding in 2010 said somewhat or very important. Two years later, that percentage increased to 88 and in 2014 it was more than 90 percent.
In 2010, 83 percent of the students said having a variety of healthy menu choices was somewhat or very important. By 2014, that number also had increased to more than 90 percent. And when asked about having a variety of vegetarian options, 59 percent said it was somewhat or very important in 2010. Four years later, that increased to 70 percent.