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Founders Flounders: Does the dining hall’s schedule encourage unhealthy eating patterns?

There is a serious problem when I wake up early on weekend mornings and have to wait two or more hours in order to start my day. Not being able to roll out of my warm bed and sleepily traipse up the labyrinth of stairs in Ege Hall, I find myself distracted by hunger. This delayed breakfast has forced me into a ritual of sleeping-in unnecessarily, consequently delaying imperative to-dos such as homework and laundry – a damaging blow to my ideal weekend schedule. Bon Appetit-run Founders Commons is the culprit responsible for my weekend delay, and must be held accountable. To write this article is to risk the possibility of a rant, but I must forgo the niceties and rant anyway!

During the days that the majority of the student population has classes (Monday through Thursday) Founders is open three times a day, with no designated snack times. For breakfast, the doors open promptly at 7:30am and close at 9:00am; lunch is from 11:30am until 1:30pm; and dinner is from 5:00pm to 7:30pm. On Fridays, the only deviance from this schedule is that they close at 7:00pm for dinner instead of 7:30pm, which is another inconvenience.

As the author has discovered the hard way recently, do not expect to swipe your meal card at 7:29pm on a Thursday night and expect to have the same access to meals as others may have had who were able to come to Founders earlier than yourself. By the time the clock strikes 7:30pm, all food is cleared.

To top it all off, on Saturdays and Sundays there are two meal periods. Yes, you heard me correctly. Two. Brunch begins at 10:30am and ends at 1:00pm, while dinner commences at 5:00pm, ending at 7:oopm on Saturdays and 7:30pm on Sundays. I don’t know about all of you out there, but I get hungry when I wake up, which can be fairly early sometimes, and as for those of us who have the commitment to get up early on Saturday mornings for sports teams, there is no reprieve of their hunger until brunch! For shame, Founders … for shame.

Is the logic behind Founder’s schedule the result of deciding that a predominantly female population must not be hungry very often? Last time I checked, I attended an all-women’s college that claims to promote empowerment of the female mind and body. How empowering is it to provide an inadequate number of meals on some days of the week, as if the residents who are not fortunate enough to come from homes within driving distance do not deserve three meals a day? This is asking for unhealthy eating habits on the parts of students who rely on Founders as their primary source of sustenance.

Individuals struggling with eating disorders must find this more than challenging to their recovery, if not flat-out enabling a pre-existing eating disorder to flourish. I, myself struggle with an eating disorder, along with many of my friends here at Mills. I do not find the schedule at all helpful in overcoming my disorder. I would assume this error in judgment has risen from funding issues – which, frankly, bothers me since I pay thousands of dollars a year to eat at this facility.

While we’re at it, why not pose yet another question in regards to an unfortunate aspect of Founders dining schedules and policies. Why is it that I am not able to have access to Founders between meals to grab a piece of fruit or a glass of water in order to keep my blood sugar up so that I avoid binge eating at meal times? On Bon Appetit’s own website, they suggest that I eat at least a small meal or healthy snack every 3-5 hours. Well, how am I supposed to do this if I do not have sufficient access to my primary food source?

Finding a solution to these pressing issues will benefit both parties involved – both Bon Appetit and students. It will provide a non-hostile, nourishing environment in which students will be given an opportunity to construct healthier eating habits. Bon Appetit does advertise and offer healthy dining options (vegan/vegetarian, organic, local, etc.), but are these wonderful things really enough to create a truly healthy eating environment?

For those students who may struggle with eating disorders, this lack of consideration for their needs may create another hurdle for those individuals. It also may affect the eating patterns of one who does not have an eating disorder, but who might struggle with a weight or diet-related health issue. It is well known that having at least three balanced meals a day does help support a healthier lifestyle.

In return for truly catering to an even broader portion of the Mills populous, Bon Appetit wouldn’t have to fret so much about food being snuck out by hoarding students. Most of these students are probably sneaking out food because they are worried about whether or not they will be able to eat the next time they are hungry or need a meal. Signs posted at the entrance to Founders prohibit diners from leaving the premises with more than one piece of fruit or “carry-out” style food items, such as an ice cream cone or a piece of bread. This is evidence that Bon Appetit clearly isn’t receptive enough to students’ need for a more open and less restrictive eating environment.

Being the opinionated Mills woman that I am, I believe it is time to open this can of worms. So, Founders, let’s collaborate! I propose these changes be considered and implemented. Don’t trap students in unhealthy cycles! Provide healthy opportunities that allow students to worry about more pressing issues, like sleep and finals.