A group of students started a petition a couple of weeks ago in an effort to improve nutrition labels on the menus in DePaul’s student center.
Freshman Thomas Rietz, a residence hall council (RHC) member who resides in Corcoran Hall, was the first to imagine a petition for better nutrition labels. Rietz said it all started with a simple offhand comment made during a conversation with one of his residents. Within a couple of days, the petition garnered more than 250 signatures.
Rietz and his supporters want to see calorie counts next to items on student center menus so students can be more informed about what they eat. Although nutrition information is posted in the student center, it is presented as a large spreadsheet that many find difficult to use.
“If you go to Ranch (a restaurant in the Lincoln Park student center), there’s going to be a stand there with this gigantic sheet of all the calories and every single item from lettuce to beans and pork,” Rietz said.
Rietz said students would have to use a calculator to figure how many calories are in a meal.
“If they provided the calorie count on the menu, then you would know ‘this is 400 calories,’” Rietz said. “It would be a lot easier for students, especially in between classes to figure out how to eat healthy on the go.”
Such calorie counts have shown up on the menus of popular establishments such as McDonald’s and Chipotle in the past few years as mandated by a provision in the Affordable Care Act. According to the law, institutions with more than 20 locations are required to post their nutritional information.
But there are ways around this provision and Chartwells may not have to provide that information, Rietz said. But the goal was to “push Chartwells in the direction where they can provide that information regardless of what the FDA regulation loophole allows for.”
After the petition gained steam, Rietz was contacted by officials from the student center and Chartwells for a meeting where they discussed these issues. Rietz said it went well.
“We had a really good discussion,” Rietz said. “And it focused on me trying to convey ‘this is what students want,’ and them trying to convey ‘this is what we can do, this is what we’re trying to do.’ I brought up a couple of important problems that I personally found, and a few students brought up.”
On DePaul’s dining website, nutrition information is posted along with tips for students seeking to have a healthy diet. Rietz believes that easier access would better serve students.
The movement does not currently plan to become an actual student organization, but will seek to use existing structures such as the Student Government Association and RHC to achieve change.