In 2014, FIU was among the 20 academic organizations who made an effort to improve the general health of their students through pledging to Partnership for a Healthier America’s “Healthy Campus Initiative.” It is the opinion of this editorial board that while FIU has been effective in communicating its desires to encourage a healthier lifestyle in it’s community, the actions of the University remain, for the most part, incongruent with its vision.
According to a video on FIU’s Student Affairs website, The President and CEO of Partnership for a Healthier America, Lawrence A. Soler, seeks to “locally impact more than 16,000 students and 5,000 faculty and staff,” and “improve the health of the next generation” through their Healthy Campus Initiative by offering access to “healthy food and beverage options with every meal, a registered dietitian, nutritionist for personal assessments, marked walking routes, a bicycle share program and more recreational activities in wellness education.”
Throughout the first year of FIU’s participation in the campaign, Pepsi remained and continues to remain the “exclusive provider of Core Beverages sold, promoted or marketed on the FIU campuses” as per the 2010 Pepsi Exclusivity Memo which can be found online at shop.fiu.edu. The document further states that FIU gained 160 new vending machines, filled by PepsiCo, in addition to increased revenue for the University through the receipt of commission. PepsiCo is a company whose top three largest brands are, based on a 2009 PepsiCo annual report, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, and Lay’s Potato Chips. None of which are healthy options.
A contributing writer for FIU News wrote in 2010 that “the five-year agreement, renewable for up to a total of nine years, is a multi million dollar deal.” As we are halfway into 2016, with no indication of desire on FIU’s part to switch to a provider whose products better align to the mission of the Healthy Campus Initiative, it can be deduced that FIU willingly remains in the contract with PepsiCo.
The exclusive contract held between PepsiCo and FIU for the promotion of these products completely contradicts the message of the Healthy Campus Initiative and makes us at FIU Student Media wonder whether FIU’s interests lie in business or in the promotion of health.
A further analysis of the University’s contract with Aramark evokes a similar feeling in FIUSM’s Editorial Board. As the primary providor of food products to FIU, Aramark offers students at MMC a selection of dining options including Panda Express, Chick-Fil-A, Taco Bell, Burger King, Papa John’s and several Starbucks locations. Salad Creations, Fresh Food Company and Subway remain among the healthier options at MMC. BBC hosts a mere four options, Grille Works, Moe’s, Starbucks and Subway for a population of approximately 7,000 students. It is obvious that with BBC having the lesser amount of students and therefore, potential consumers, Aramark chooses to place most of its efforts at MMC.
For a beginning college student, the newfound combination of freedom and responsibility can easily become overwhelming, especially when in regards to one’s health. “Freshman 15” is notorious among freshmen for it’s looming threat of 15 new pounds to a student’s weight. Many times, students are uneducated in aspects of their health, which can lead to a number of individuals taking extreme dieting measures to lose weight or overeating, both of which can cause long term metabolic damage.
FIU’s food and beverage options do not do enough to promote healthy lifestyles. The promotion of soft and energy drinks remains a standard. Soler states that college is “many times, the first taste of independence. It’s the first time we’re cooking for ourselves, and finding times throughout our day to exercise without someone pushing us. And as those choices are often built on the need for efficiency, making it easier for a group of young adults who are learning many life skills for the first time is critical.”
FIU has, however, made a great stride to develop its Wellness & Recreation Center at MMC for use by members of the FIU community with a renovation and expansion to be completed by 2017. The expansion will address the concerns of students who find it difficult to exercise in the crowded environment. FIU Magazine reports that with the $25 million, 60,000 square foot expansion, MMC’s Wellness & Recreation Center will “surpass the national average for fitness space for colleges, roughly one square foot per student.”
This is a step in the right direction for the Healthy Campus Initiative and FIUSM’s Editorial Board hopes that similar steps taken to address the food and beverage options promoted on campus. In the end, actions do speak louder than words.