A Look at the Eating Habits of Howard University Students

The main course of the meal is macaroni and cheese, southern fried chicken, greens and black eyed peas. The desserts on the menu read sweet potato pie and chocolate cake. Many Howard University students rush to form a line that extends down the hallway. The door opens and students flurry in the diner in order get their taste buds satisfied by this tantalizing meal that they call “Soul Food Thursday.”

Malik Smith, sophomore biology major has his tray in hand. He piles on his plate a large helping of the three side dishes and picks threw the mound of chicken in order to find a breast and a wing.  He gets a large cup of ice tea to drench the food down and takes a seat. The hot sauce is in eyes view. He realizes that this is the only thing missing from his perfect lunch. He pours the hot sauce until the chicken is almost completely covered and digs into a meal that he has waited on all day. “I am so hungry and this will definitely hit the spot,” said Smith.

Heart disease, cancer and diabetes in the black communities are at alarmingly higher rates than other races. Soul food and lack of exercise can be attributed to these numbers. Fried foods especially are known to have very high amounts of calories and fat.

Dr. Eleanora M. Isles, a Howard University associate professor of nutrition said “Occasional soul food is not a problem, the problem starts when that type of food is consumed frequently.” There are alternatives ways of cooking these soul foods that can prove to be healthier.

“It also depends on the how the food is prepared. When people cook greens they can use smoked turkey instead of the pork fat that is traditionally used.” said Isles. People should also consider low-fat dressings at the salad bar to help their consumption of calories. There is up to 100 calories in two tablespoons of a regular dressing, in comparison to 15 – 20 calories in a fat free dressing.

Eating certain foods with high nutrients and antioxidants is also an important measure that must be taken into consideration. Enid Knight a Howard University Graduate Professor of nutrition said “I encourage students to eat cold water fish such as salmon twice a week. Catfish doesn’t count, because it is a local fish.”

Students also should consider how much physical activity that they participate in because inactivity can also contribute to health problems. “Something as simple as walking around the campus instead of taking the shuttle so much will help students out a lot,” said Knight.

For senior William J Hall, the problem is very evident. “I believe that if we were given better choices on campus, people would be more health conscious.”

This year’s arrival of several restaurants in the Punch Out on Howard’s campus doesn’t give the new freshman class much help in the fight against the legend of the “Freshman 15.” With selections such as Chic-Fil-A, Pandini, and Sky Blue students are left wondering what goes into the selection process when choosing what restaurants will be available to students in the Howard University Blackburn center.

 “My question is who makes the decisions on what restaurants will come to the Punch Out,” said Tamika Smith, a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism.

Mohammed K. Abdelilah, director of operations at the food services department, pointed out the fact that most of the decision making is left in the hands of the students.

“The most popular voted national brand restaurant by the students was Chic-Fil-A and it was the first brand selected for the new Punch-Out restaurant,” Abdelilah said.

Abdelilah also said that Sky Blue ranch and Pandini pizza were both selected because of their high quality foods and fresh variety. The new punch out is a huge success, but is this at the expense of the students health.

“The numbers speak for themselves, since the new Punch Out has re-opened, more faculty and students have come to Blackburn in search of the high quality foods that they had to leave campus to get in past years. People are coming from as far as the hospital,” said Abdelilah.

“To help push a healthier cuisine Sodexho will soon introduce a low carbohydrate bread since market research has proved that there is a demand for this product,” said Adelilah.