We are three weeks into the semester and it isn’t hard to tell that the academic year is gaining momentum. Study spots are being filled up with students anxious to get started on their first assignments, study rooms are rapidly being booked for group meetings but, most of all, the lines at Tim Horton’s are getting longer day-by-day with students looking to get their caffeine or sugar fix before spending long hours enclosed in a classroom. Walking into a lecture, it’s not difficult to spot the signature red cups lining more than half the desks in the room. At times they’re accompanied by warm bagels, muffins, doughnuts, or even croissants. Although the most popular, Tim Horton’s isn’t the only food choice found in the hands of students at UTM. Quite often a classroom is decorated with the smells of a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks, a cheese slice from Pizza Pizza, a veggie burrito bowl from Quesada, or a tray of sushi from Bento Sushi located in the Instructional Building. Despite the plethora of food options available on campus, there is only one statement that’s heard from conversations floating around campus: UTM needs better food options on campus. Perhaps it is the lack of healthy dishes being offered, or perhaps there are limited options for those bound by dietary restrictions.
It is a known fact that all universities have a universal goal of promoting healthy eating on campus. As a student, it’s extremely important to have the right sorts of nutrients in your daily diet but incorporating such food items can be difficult due to hectic schedules, lack of cooking skills and tools, and, most importantly, lack of time. The aforementioned factors serve as roadblocks even for those who are willing to readily adopt a healthy lifestyle. At times like these, it is the responsibility of the university to promote and serve nutrient rich food options that are easily accessible for students who are always on-the-go. According to Ana Diaz, a third-year student doing a double major in English and history, UTM needs to stop the wide-spread sales of unhealthy snacks if they want to successfully promote healthy eating. Most cash registers in the TFC are lined with large expanses of chocolate bar and chips and Diaz says, “It’s so easy to just grab a bag of chips or candy bar when you’re standing in line to pay for your salad.” Diaz further adds, “I think at least limiting the amount of junk food that is sold would be a huge step in promoting healthy eating.” Zara Hassan, a second-year student double majoring in CCIT and PWC, also believes that the university isn’t doing much to promote a healthy lifestyle on campus. “I have seen Redbull and Starbucks’ double-shot espressos being handed out for free, but very rarely have I seen anything healthy being given out.”
Most students at UTM can agree with the fact that there is an imbalanced ratio of healthy food to junk food. Most vending machines around campus are stocked with soft drinks, chocolates, chips and other varieties of sweets. In places like CCT, where the express Tim Horton’s closes early, students attending late classes resort to eating a bag of chips or snacking on gummy bears when they feel hungry. Healthy foods need to be just as—if not more—accessible as junk foods are. According to Zainab Hassan, a second year management student, “It’s just not worth getting healthy food on campus because fast food is more easily available and is cheaper and more filling than the healthy options available on campus.”
Diversity within food options is another factor that students at UTM feel strongly about. With the student population increasing every year, there are many students that have certain dietary restrictions that prevent them from eating specific items available on campus. Being a vegan, Diaz feels her options of eating on campus are quite limited. “I enjoyed the salad bar options that were available in TFC, but they have been replaced by smoothie bowls. Although they are a healthy option, I’m disappointed that they aren’t vegan. Furthermore, only a few soups available are vegan, but they aren’t served on a daily basis.” The same can be said of Internationals in TFC who also serve limited vegan options such as Falafel. Most of the time Diaz has to bring lunch from home and can only resort to fruits when she wants a quick snack.
Jyoti Kalsi, a first-year social science student, also agrees with Diaz’s point of view. Kalsi is a vegetarian and feels that UTM needs to provide more vegetarian and vegan options as vegetarians are allowed to consume vegan food items as well. “I usually stick to places that I know have vegetarian options such as Pizza Pizza, Subway and Tim Hortons, but I wish there were more options fully dedicated to serving vegetarian items.” When it comes to items that invoke allergies, Zainab Hassan believes that it can be hard to tell if certain dishes made on a daily basis contain certain items such as nuts or not. “I’m allergic to sesame seeds and tree nuts, so I usually avoid any items containing those ingredients. Sometimes I’m unsure, but I avoid the item anyways because I don’t want to risk it.”
Most of the student population at UTM are consumers of halal food. The term ‘halal food’ refers to meat that is slaughtered as per the Islamic law. Many students feel that Halal options are extremely limited on campus and whatever little options are available, are often marred by issues such as cross-contamination. Last year, a few students overheard a worker at Coleman Commons complaining that his colleague was using the knife for slicing bacon, on other food items as well. Zara Hassan states, “I don’t think making all food on campus halal will hurt anyone. That way, more people will be able to eat from those places.” Hassan also believes that places on campus that serve halal options such as the Blind Duck Pub should have a clear sign that states so. “I don’t like to ask if the food I’m getting is halal out of concern each time.”
Based on these student views, it’s clear that UTM has a lot to work on when it comes to on-campus food options. The main ones being the inclusion of food places that take into consideration the different dietary restrictions that students have and maintaining a proper balance between healthy foods and junk foods based on availability and accessibility. Hopefully students will get to see such changes in the next academic year.