Day’s Verse:
Behold, how good and pleasant it is
For brothers to dwell together in unity!

Psalm 133:1

I recently received this email from WPI, the fine and venerable academic institution at which I currently matriculate.

Chartwells and WPI are pleased to announce our new partnership with the popular coffee brand, Dunkin Donuts. Dunkin Donuts will be located in the 48 Café, on the main floor of the Campus Center, currently being operated by Chartwells and the Ritazza brand.

Dunkin Donuts will begin construction on Thursday of this week and plan to be open for business sometime during A term. During construction, the majority of beverages and food items normally served in the café will be offered in the lower level, Profiles in Good Taste.

Please join me in welcoming this popular New England brand to our beautiful campus!

Surely many students will rejoice at this announcement, reveling in the opportunity for “real” coffee and delicious doughnuts. Yet this email has forced me to wonder what WPI intends for its students by allowing these fast-food franchises to invade our campus. College students notoriously eat poorly without any prodding; yet with the food choices offered – tolerable but unchanging academic swill that food-poisoned 20-odd people last year; Burger King’s notoriously artery-clogging poison; or now Dunkin Donuts’ delicious but equally fattening fare – what does WPI expect on-campus students to do to eat healthy? Few dorms include kitchen facilities for alternative cooking options; the Campus Center provides a wide array of greasy hamburgers or sandwiches of questionable integrity; the two dining halls offer tolerable-tasting but painfully unhealthy (often fried or buttered) food; we know Burger King and Dunkin Donuts of old.

Why would these franchises want to hop into bed with WPI’s dining services? I feel confident that the vast college-student resource sends fast-food franchise analysts into a slobbering frenzy at the mere thought of our purchasing power. If they offer us fast food, we buy it. We choose Burger King and Dunkin Donuts; they wouldn’t come to WPI if the siren-song of profits didn’t ring in their ears. The question is, should WPI offer us these choices? How much should WPI look out for students’ health by controlling their eating options? Right now they control our eating options by giving us BK and DD, although you might say that students can choose something besides BK or DD,opting in or opting out of unhealthy eating. But at the same time, what choices do we not have because of BK’s and DD’s presence? Where are the healthy options for students to choose? We cannot choose what isn’t offered.

What I want to get at here is the issue of health and choice. Even diligently healthy students would find themselves challenged to maintain a healthy diet at WPI. Why not provide students with a wider array of truly healthy foods and give them the opportunity to avoid the notorious Freshman 15? Why not contract with Subway, the healthiest (if most infamously harsh franchiser) of the fast-food chains? Why not provide students with a wider array of choices, or cut out the greasiest meals? Why not cook with healthy alternatives – canola margarine instead of butter, for instance? The world around us screams about America’s obesity epidemic, how our children just keep packing on the pounds; then our parents send us as inexperienced young adults rarely trained in healthy ways of eating, to colleges that offer pizza, Burger King, and Dunkin Donuts for our meals.

In the end I would just like to see WPI expand its food options not to what will make money (surely DD will do that), but to what will benefit its students the most. Even if that means reducing what students want to offer them what they need.

One thought on “Food and Choice

  1. For some reason, healthy food is more expensive food. The fast food places love a captive audience of fast food eaters and probably cut the school a better deal, and that is usually the bottom line for any business; which even a university is.

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