Although the suggested number of daily servings for fruits and vegetables varies by sex, age, and physical activity, many dieticians and nutritionists recommend that, in general, five to nine or more servings per day is essential for good health. Eating enough produce has been linked to a lowered risk of chronic disease, a lowered risk of heart problems, improved mental health — the benefits are endless.
Unfortunately for those plagued by low budgets and food insecurity, eating a healthy diet is nearly impossible. Marguerite Nowak, the manager of a busy San Francisco food bank, told SFGate that “food is often the first to go” when money is tight. You can skip meals, but “you can’t pay half your rent or utility bills if you want a place to live.”
Fresh produce, now at exorbitant prices, is often skipped in favour of microwavable dinners, processed junk food, and meat and dairy products. Because of recent price inflations due to environmental factors, this has become even more of an issue.
In January, The New York Times described Canada’s expensive grocery predicament as the result of an oil-dependent economy. When the price of oil drops, so does the Canadian dollar, making imports such as produce seem like a luxury. Factors like droughts in California, where a lot of Canada’s produce comes from, don’t help either.
Dairy, poultry, and egg prices do not see as drastic of price inflations because they, unlike fruits and vegetables, are protected by a combination of government-sanctioned cartels and high tariffs on imports. This is to keep competition from other countries low and to keep the demand for local meat and dairy producers steady.
Nowhere on campus do we have a fresh fruit stand or a place to purchase grilled vegetables at reasonable prices.
With all of these factors combined, university students — who not only have to worry about rent and bills, but also tuition, university fees, and textbooks — are left especially vulnerable. While SFU does have a food voucher program where students in need can receive a $25-voucher to Nester’s Market, these rising food prices are reminders that it’s simply not enough. Not only is $25 hardly enough money to make a noticeable difference to one’s monthly grocery bill, but Nester’s is also notoriously pricey.
If SFU wants to help students eat healthier, they need to make a number of changes. For students on the meal plan, the Dining Hall requires a makeover. The only fruits offered that don’t come from a can are bland apples and bananas. Apart from salad bar vegetables, fresh produce is scarce.
Bringing an increased variety of produce to the Dining Hall would boost both student health and morale. Trust me — nobody living in residence is excited to go to the Dining Hall after the third week.
We also need more healthy food options on campus. At Burnaby Mountain, we have two Starbucks within walking distance of campus, a Tim Hortons, and a Renaissance Coffee, but nowhere do we have a fresh fruit stand or a place to purchase grilled vegetables at reasonable prices. We miss out on essential nutrients, such as vitamins, iron, and fibre when we don’t consume fruits and vegetables. These nutrients help to stabilize moods, increase our attention spans, and give us enough energy to carry on with our day.
According to a study conducted by the University of Alberta in 2009, children who ate healthy diets were more likely to do well on exams and succeed in school. If SFU wants to see more of their students succeed, a good starting point would be to help us help ourselves: providing cheap and healthy food alternatives to what’s currently available.