College Kids Need Food Education
By Bernice Hurst, Managing Director, Fine Food Network
Catching young people as they start their university lives gives retailers three opportunities to influence the way people eat. The students are starting to shop and feed themselves for the first time; they will continue shopping and feeding themselves for decades to come; many will become parents and start shopping and feeding families.
Being a student means being free and independent of parents for the first time. But being responsible for yourself includes the opportunity to be irresponsible if you choose, leaving behind all the lessons on healthy eating and gorging on convenience and junk food. For some, the results are soon felt in weight gain, frequently dubbed “freshman 15” — a quick lesson in cause and effect that is much more real than all the warnings from childhood.
As Lucy Tobin, a student at Oxford University, said, “Our problem is not ignorance… convenience often takes precedence.”
Two recent studies show American students gain weight during their freshman year although not necessarily the fifteen pounds estimated. On the other hand, the gain can continue up until graduation. Irregular schedules, busy-ness, stress and readily available snacks are frequently blamed, along with unhealthy cafeteria choices.
While temptations will continue to exist, retailers, farmers’ markets and organizations focused on health and nutrition have an opportunity to show students that it’s not difficult (and can be very sociable) to eat well.
Some actually lose weight by defining salads and fruit as convenience food. Others point out that many residence halls do offer healthy choices. It’s up to people to choose them.
Looking at the bigger picture, students are forming the eating habits of a lifetime. Getting hooked on food and snacks that are nutritionally lacking may have both short-term (freshman 15) consequences and lead to longer-term health problems such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc.
Grocery stores often make pronouncements about their desire to promote better nutrition. University students may provide a desirable target market to put that rhetoric to the test. Creating a connection with students during their first experience out on their own may lead to a relationship that will last a lifetime.
Discussion Questions: Are college-age consumers a market that grocery stores should be concerned with developing? What are the implications for retailers
that are successful in developing a relationship with consumers at this stage in their lives? What can grocery stores do to develop those relationships and encourage healthier
food choices at the same time?
- Making a (healthy) meal of it – The Guardian
studies suggest ‘freshman 15’ a myth – Oregon Daily Emerald
- ‘Freshman 15’ really 5 or 7, but the gains don’t stop – The Associated Press/CNN