One trip to the Lory Student Center Food Court at lunch time would leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that students living in the residence halls are elated to have access to their meal plans from the conveniently-located kiosks. And although those of us who aren’t on university meal plans are probably somewhat inconvenienced by the long lines that the popularity of this program has created, I’m glad that it’s helped more students take a moment out of their day to grab a bite to eat.
There are signs that have been posted all around the Food Court to designate which food options are covered by the residence hall meal plan. Students have a wide variety of choices available to them including chicken fried steak, bagel sandwiches, soups and salads and even fresh stir-fry. Their meal options also include a fountain drink. What I find to be of particular interest, however, is the sign on the cooler that holds all the milk cartons. The sign mounted on the door clearly explains that milk is not included as a beverage option with the meal plans. Why would milk, a healthy beverage loaded with vitamins and minerals, not be available to those who would opt not to drink a carbonated, caffeine laced cup of sugar essentially void of any nutritional value?
I don’t live in the residence halls, and I’m not on a meal plan. For these reasons, the situation I described doesn’t directly apply to me. I can relate to it though in terms of those students who would insist on the option of milk with their lunch. These students can purchase milk through a separate transaction by paying for it out of pocket. I regularly drink milk with my lunch and its cost is included in the total cost of my meal purchase. My main concern, in regards to milk, is that whether it’s purchased in the Food Court, at the Lobby Shop or at Cam’s Corner Store, it costs almost twice as much as soda. And although this may seem like a petty concern, I believe that to some degree, it is indicative of a far greater and more significant social issue.
It would seem that in many instances, the expense for consuming nutritionally rich and healthy food products is greater than that incurred by the consumption of less healthy foods. It is cheaper to purchase a hot dog, a bag of potato chips and a soda than it is to purchase a meal consisting of fresh vegetables, whole-grain pasta and (of course) milk. For some of us, this may not seem particularly bothersome because we’d prefer the hot dog and potato chips anyway. And still for others of us, this may not seem like an especially impactful dilemma because we possess the resources to opt for the vegetables and pasta if we so desired. The unfortunate reality for too many low-income families and individuals, however, is that there is no real choice to be made. Options are dictated by price tags.
Is it any real surprise that our society is drowning itself in diet-related health woes? In assessing the priorities of our society, is it acceptable to the vast majority of us that we pay taxes for such absurdities as subsidizing the tobacco industry while we disregard the fact that it is more affordable for a mother to pump her children full of Pepsi than to nourish them with milk?
Veronica Garcia is a senior majoring in sociology.