Officials make changes for Wellness Wednesdays


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Every Wednesday, the campus dining halls change. A sign goes up, a booth is constructed, and food is labeled. But some think those changes may be too subtle to make a difference.

The Wellness Wednesdays initiative was designed to get students thinking about the way they treat their bodies, said Lisa McKirgan, a University of Iowa residential-dining marketing developer.

It began in January of this year, and this fall, a number of other organizations partnered with the program including the Rape Victim Advocacy Program and the University Counseling Services.

Officials hoped it would get more people thinking about what they were eating. But several students hadn't even heard of it.

"I've never noticed a difference," UI freshman Matthew Keck said at Burge Marketplace during a recent Wellness Wednesday.

Other students had similar responses.

"Wellness Wednesday is putting out a yogurt bar," UI freshman Karly Holland said.

Burge Marketplace manager Anne Harkins said she isn't surprised some students haven't heard of the program.

"It's a matter of interest," McKirgan said. "It gets some people thinking about it more than others."

One item they both said has had a lot of positive response is the Wellness Wednesdays' yogurt bar, at which people can create their own parfaits.

That's what UI sophomore Molly Jane Sisson said she mainly looks forward to.

"I see a lot more people picking that for their desserts instead of heading straight for the ice-cream stand," she said.

Fellow regent institutions, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa, have different approaches to pushing nutrition in their dining halls.

Cameron Aisenbrey, the communication specialist for dining at Iowa State, said the main nutrition service it offers is a program in which students can go online and monitor their meals down to the details. Students can find out how many calories, carbohydrates, and other nutrients are in their burritos, tailored to the exact toppings he or she used.

While the UI offers online nutritional information, it doesn't allow students to specify what toppings or sides they got.

Though the University of Northern Iowa doesn't have something similar to Wellness Wednesdays, purchasing manager and administrative dietitian Lisa Krausman said officials are working on lowering sodium content, and they want to create a podcast highlighting their healthier options, in addition to other goals.

"It's an expanding area, and the students are always more and more interested," Krausman said.

Katherine Mellen, a UI lecturer in health and human physiology, said college students don't get enough fruits and vegetables in their diet.

She said checking nutritional facts is a good start to maintaining a healthy diet.

"It's really important to focus on the food groups and try to make sure there are nutrients in with the calorie content," she said.

Even with Wednesdays' modified menus, UI freshman Maddy Rizor said she'd like even more healthy options. She often checks the nutritional content of meals online, but it's not a perfect system, she said.

"It's hard to measure your portions in the dining halls," she said. "Most people don't know what 3 ounces of something is."

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