Healthier food options coming to campus dining locations

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The cafeteria on a college campus is typically full of burgers and fries, but starting this month Tyler Junior College will offer healthier food choices as well.

A new program by Valley Food Services will give students a choice of a baked or grilled protein meat as well as steamed vegetables prepared without any animal fat, said Mr. Randall McGowen, food service director at TJC.

“Students who come back from last year will see that things have improved dramatically,” he said.

Other provisions are also being taken to provide students with healthier options. The salad bar will have a fat free side; one half of the bar will offer fat free or reduced fat mayo and fat free dressings. The stir-fry station has healthy choices as well.

” We are continuing to make changes daily and look forward to the input of our students,” McGowen said.

The college welcomes students with special food needs in regards to health or religion.

“We accommodate anyone with allergies or health issues,” McGowen said.

TJC will even pack out for students participating in Ramadan.

“TJC’s food program has two number one goals, quality and customer service, there are no one and two,” said McGowen

While the chances of a franchise coming to campus are slim, the Deli is the Valley’s version of Subway.

“We will run your sandwich through the pizza oven, and steps are being made to offer hot sandwiches,” said McGowen.

But TJC students have to make the choice to eat healthy.

According to Mr. McGowen, unfortunately students don’t typically choose healthy food over not as healthy food. TJC has different methods when deciding what to serve. What sells the most will become a regular menu item. Also what works well in other schools may show up. TJC also ” tries and tracks” new items. A new item is offered and the popularity of that particular food is tracked.

According to Rebecca Bibby, nutritionist at TJC, students can make healthy choices from the options on campus, but often do not.

” As consumers we need to be better informed about eating healthy and being healthy,” Bibby said. “Diet and exercise together are going to equal good fitness.”

Bibby recommends a web site, www.mypyramid.gov, where students can analyze their food intake. It also has a food tracker, and lots of other information about healthy eating habits.

“TJC does a good job tying to meet the taste preferences of so many people,” said Bibby.

There are 1,042 students living on campus and all are required to have a meal plan that prepays for meals. Students who don’t live on campus, faculty and staff members also may use campus dining facilities.

Abner Cooper, TJC freshman who lives on campus, was in the cafeteria for lunch eating pasta. He said health is not a factor for him when he decides what to eat.

“Whatever looks best or I have a taste for,” he said.

Cooper said he dines in the cafeteria once or twice a day, but he wouldn’t eat healthier food if it was offered.

Some students would like to have an opportunity to have a voice about the food on campus. TJC has a food advisory board that meets once a month. Students can attend the meetings and give input about the food on campus. Cooper said he probably wouldn’t go to the meetings.

Another way Valley Food Service’s is trying to meet the needs of students is by having longer business hours.

“We have expanded hours to offer students more opportunities to come dine with us,” said McGowen.

Breakfast is served 6:30 a.m.- 10:30 a.m., Lunch 11 a.m.- 1 p.m. and dinner 4 p.m.- 7 p.m. Monday -Friday. Brunch is served 10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. and dinner 4 p.m.- 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

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