Fun fact: If you type “fast food desert” into the Google image search bar, an image of Figueroa Street pops up.
The three-block stretch of Figueroa close to USC contains virtually every fast food chain imaginable. We live in a fast food desert: healthy dining is hard to find, and it is often very far away.
When the Ronald Tutor Campus Center opened, it seemed logical that it would be stocked with the healthy dining options that are so scarce in the surrounding area.
Though USC did install several healthy dining options, it also brought more fast food closer to USC students.
Carl’s Jr. and Panda Express already exist less than a mile from USC, yet both opened new locations in the campus center. California Pizza Kitchen also opened its doors within the new center. Salads at CPK average around 700 calories, and all pizzas average more than 1,000 calories.
In contrast, Seeds Marketplace’s salads and sandwiches seem to be healthy, but that assumption can’t be verified. Nutritional information isn’t available for any of them. The USC Hospitality website says that it will be posting nutritional information for all USC restaurants by spring 2011, but only a few restaurants have been updated.
The nutrition section of the USC Hospitality website acknowledges that “it can be difficult to find time to eat, much less eat healthy.”
As a solution to this, “many USC Hospitality venues located all across campus carry ‘grab and go’ items such as salads, fruit cups, sushi and wraps/sandwiches.” But even these “grab and go” items are often far from healthy. Salads are mixed with super-fatty dressings, and even yogurts and fruit cups can contain a surprising amount of calories.
In USC brochures and advertising, USC students always seem to be healthy, happy and fit. But is this becoming less of a reality? Many of us continue to eat terribly, although USC touts more nutrition information — information that is either ignored or not presented in a format that garners attention.
Last fall, USC launched an Immigrant Health Initiative to focus on improving nutrition and health among immigrant groups. Currently, many immigrants who move to the United States see an increase in their risk of cancer and other chronic diseases, according to the National Cancer Institute. This decline in health is inevitably linked to the poor nutrition that has come to characterize America.
How can USC launch an initiative to help immigrants while continuing to feed junk to its students, especially during this time of skyrocketing obesity?
Some good nutritional information is available on USC’s Hospitality website, but it is buried within the website in an unorganized fashion. Nutrition has clearly taken a backseat in USC’s priorities.
Moreover, students should be better educated about nutrition. There are students at USC who essentially never eat vegetables — how do things like this happen? Solid nutrition is the basis of a healthy life, and even small steps would be an improvement, such as making the nutritional information for Seeds available.
Rather than mimicking the surrounding community and installing more fast food venues, we need to see more healthy options made available. USC does little in terms of bringing in local or organic food. As a result, many USC students travel five miles to nearby Urth Café for organic, fresh food.
Resources are available for those who want help in changing the way they eat. Nutritional advice is available through the health center and through USC Hospitality’s website. We look to USC to be a leader in many areas — it’s time nutrition became one of these.
Tim Clayton is a junior majoring in narrative studies. His column “HypocriSC” runs every other Tuesday.