Green paper or green thumbs?

Lime dangling from a tree on campus, dozens of fruits nuts and vegetables are growing across campus. Photo Credit: Michelle Nelson / Staff Reporter
Lime dangling from a tree on campus, dozens of fruits nuts and vegetables are growing across campus. Photo Credit: Michelle Nelson / Staff Reporter

Smells of fried greasy goodness fill the air when you take a walk through the bookstore food court during lunch hour. Hungry students wait in line with hypnotic stares while they decide what to eat. Will it be artery clogging burgers, stitch bursting fried rice, or heart attack heaven onion rings? The cliché “freshman 15” is an understatement. Try the freshman 25.

According to a study conducted by the University of New Hampshire, obesity among college students is on the rise. UNH collected data from more than 800 students enrolled in a nutrition class and found that one-third of the students were overweight. Eight percent of men had metabolic syndrome, which increases the risk of heart attack and diabetes. More than 60 percent of men had high blood pressure, and more than two-thirds of women were not meeting the daily nutritional requirements for iron, folate and calcium. Sixty-six percent of men and 50 percent of women had at least one risk factor for metabolic syndrome.

Granted that is just a small sample of a larger population, but considering those statistics alone, we might as well sign up for a heart transplant now.

What’s more, the study found that college students were suffering from weight related health problems at an earlier age than previous generations. Translation: more and more young people need health care sooner because of poor food choices.

A study conducted in 2004 by the American Diabetes Association found that obese adults spend $585 in prescription costs per year, compared to the $333 that non-obese people paid.

The Center of Disease Control and Prevention also released a report showing that obesity “accounted for 9.1 percent of total U.S. medical expenditures in 1998 and may have reached as high as $78.5 billion.” That is $92.6 billion if you take into account inflation, which is indicated in the report. Medicare and Medicaid paid about half of these costs, according to the report.

This news is not shocking, given that most of the food available on campus is provided by corporations that bring us the king of burgers and talking pandas. With increased awareness on nutrition and health, many would argue that college students should be responsible for their own food choices.

Perhaps that may be true, but with little to no health food options available on campus, what else are we supposed to eat? The truth is if there’s a demand, there will be a product wrapped up in a see-through greasy wrapper.

I’m not advocating getting rid of the fast food joints altogether. They are a necessary evil to help bring money to our school. We just can’t be limited to fast food, though.

I took a walk around campus with Roger Motti, a senior geography major, who is very involved in bringing healthy food options to campus. He showed me what food is available now that he and the Hillel Community Gardening Project are working together. Motti says that he would love to utilize the open fields located by the baseball fields and various places around campus to plant more gardens, but the administration has been reluctant in giving up their space.

He has been successful, however, in getting a plot. It’s a dusty, grassless plot across the street from the Northridge Academy High School, but it’s a start, Motti says. He envisions vegetables, berries and other fruits in this plot. He plans to donate the overflow of the produce to the dining halls. By the way, Motti says the food is free. In exchange, students must donate a few spare hours of their time to help maintain the garden plots. Not bad since the average cost of a meal in the cafeteria is about $7.

Motti says the administration wants to keep the other open spaces for students who want to “lie out on the grass.” While I’m sure the student body appreciates that the administration has our needs in mind, I have to ask the obvious question, do students really want to lie in an open treeless field in 100 degree plus weather? Or, do we need more fruits and vegetables on campus? Besides, is it efficient to be watering empty plots of grass and weeds?

Nathaniel Wilson, the campus architect, explained that in order for more lots to be allocated for sustainable gardening, CSUN students must show that there is a demand for fresh fruits and vegetables. The administration cannot allocate plots of land that need to be re-wired for irrigation and dug up if no one wants to maintain and use the land.

Wilson says that he is hopeful that CSUN students will show that there is a demand for self-sustaining gardening, “CSUN students take care of and respect the campus,” and he says that they will also take care of the garden plots.

In light of the budget cuts, it makes good sense to be self-sufficient. During World War II, victory gardens were planted across America to help with the war effort by lowering the cost of fruit and vegetables. Today we need victory gardens because food is costly, not to mention tuition. You don’t have to sacrifice an arm and a leg to eat healthy on campus. You will have to sacrifice at least a leg if you get diabetes from eating too much fast food.