College freshmen are constantly admonished about drinking too much, partying too much, and now, even eating too much. The commonly used expression “freshman 15” refers to the weight gained by a first year student during his or her first year in college. While obesity in America is a growing social issue, the unhealthy eating habits found on college campuses are easily overlooked and disregarded.
Generally speaking, freshman students get the short end of the stick when it comes to the on-campus dining options. Since freshmen are not given resident hall cooking facilities, they cannot cook their own meals so meal plans are a requirement. College cafeteria foods are very limiting and, given the circumstances, often contribute to students settling to eat greasy, fatty foods in place of nutritious alternatives. Because of this, freshmen are more likely to gain unwanted weight.
Obesity extends far from just a personal trouble because so many people are suffering from unhealthy weight gain. The mass consumption of alcoholic beverages and unhealthy foods on college campuses strongly contribute to obesity as a public issue. According to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the prevalent rate of obesity in college students has doubled over the past 10 years.
Undeniably, obesity affects millions of people. So why are college students-the future intellectuals of America-given such little attention when it comes to health and obesity?
If not addressed, obesity on college campuses will surely be a limiting factor for many students. With freshmen students unable to prepare healthy, home-cooked meals due to the lack of kitchen facilities and very little time to do non-academic activities, they fall vulnerable to becoming obese.
College officials should address the obesity issue with the same amount of importance that college campus policies and regulations have for alcohol-like issues. For many freshmen students, living away from home is a very liberating experience. However, the freedom to eat whatever they want on campus (or whatever is available to them) can have everlasting effects on their lives. While personal choices do contribute to obesity, college boards must start thinking about the needs and health of all students.