Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
This semester, many students in Sharples have noticed the appearance of organic cereals and bright green heart stickers that denote organic food products or food prepared without transfats. Sharples’ purchasing director Janet Kassab has observed that most of these “changes” are actually responses to student requests to know what kinds of ingredients are in the food that we eat in Sharples.
“What the students want, we do our best to give,” explains Kassab, who is eager to meet the needs and requests of students, citing the daily efforts to provide alternative meals for those who cannot eat certain ingredients. The addition of organic cereals, which Kassab jokingly refers to as her “hippie corner,” was specifically intended to meet the needs of students who need wheat or gluten free cereal.
How else do students make requests of Sharples? “The napkin board is fairly effective.” The attention to transfats, for example, is actually a result of questions from students. While the switch to transfat free frying oil was nothing new, the big difference is that Sharples is now “advertising” the lack of transfats. The new philosophy on healthy ingredients in Sharples: “If you’ve got it, flaunt it,” Kassab says, alluding to stickers such as those marking the low fat yogurts and visible cartons for organic tomatoes.
Kassab also observes that when it comes to food with transfats, “the real culprits are the baked goods.” However, Kassab hopes to address that as well, since General Mills, which recently bought Pillsbury, has been creating new frozen baked goods with fewer tranfats in their preservatives.
The attention students are paying to healthy food is “here to stay” in Kassab’s opinion. She doubts that the consumption of foods with these healthy ingredients is dramatically different than before the labelling system, although “if anything, we’ve had less this year to send to the homeless at the end of the week,” students are definitely more concerned about what they’re putting in their mouths.
As part of an effort to encourage this awareness, Kassab has been hoping to have a health awareness day in March as well as running a competition (the materials for which can be found in the office at the top of Sharples) to design a new slogan and logo to mark special health-conscious selections at Sharples. The student whose submission is selected will win a prize.