Phi Theta Kappa helps students learn healthy eating

Fanta Sylla, Staff writer

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Soul music is playing in the background. Students are sitting around tables. It’s Friday, and people are celebrating the end of Phi Theta Kappa’s healthy eating campaign “Keep it Fresh, Keep it Simple.”  In a relaxed ambiance, Makiko Omori, Phi Theta Kappa’s vice president of Scholarship who led the campaign, alongside Michelle Oliveras, president of PTK, present the project to the participants and some curious visitors.

At the heart of the campaign was the 5-Day Challenge where about 250 students recorded their  daily in-take of at least five fruits and vegetables. From Sept. 23-27, Phi Theta Kappa was present in different campuses to support the participants involved in the challenge by distributing informative sheets, organizing a Farmer’s Market and having a free buffet.

Every two years, Phi Theta Kappa chapters around the world engage in honors actions that address new real-world issues. This year the theme is “The Culture of Competition.”

Madison College’s chapter chose to direct their research on the effect of competition on food habits, specifically the competition between processed food and fresh food. The questions that helped them in exploring this phenomenon were “How does your diet differ from that of your grandparents or great grandparents?,” “How have the changes in a competitive food market affected those changes?” and “What are the effects of those differences?”

Phi Theta Kappa will be able to answer them, after gathering the information they got from survey and post-survey feedback. It is still possible for those who participated to answer the post-survey questions.

Paul Short, the director of the Culinary Arts program, who joined in the celebration to give fresh food shopping tips, already has an idea of where these differences come from. In an interview later, he expanded on some topics.

“Our great-grandparents and grandparents were hunters and gatherers; they were concerned about the source of their food,” he said. “It was an important thing in their daily life.”

To him, what used to be priorities like cooking or gardening have become peripheral. People are satisfied with the convenience of processed food. Time and convenience seem to be the main issues that prevent people from making good food choices.

On the assumption that unprivileged people can’t afford fresh food and that the green lifestyle is elitist, Short said poor people used to cope with expensive market prices by growing their own food. It wasn’t exclusive to a certain category until recently. The existence of community gardens in poor neighborhoods also refutes this misconception. People can lower food prices by growing their own food, conserving or buying in-season by reaching local farmers or locating roadside stands.

Despite these significant changes in our lifestyle/mentality with regards to food, Short said people are becoming skeptical about the processed food industry. He points out the role of social media.

“The information is now at their fingertips,” he said raising his smartphone. He describes Phi Theta Kappa’s action as a good idea and its reception in the student community as a sign of people’s need for change.

Reaching uninformed students was one of the primary goals during PTK’s campaign. In collaboration with the Madison College Food Services, it provided incentives like coupons, free cooking classes and gift cards. “What we wanted was to make knowledge accessible to students who are not used to eat fresh food,” said student Makiko Omori.

“Keep it Fresh, Keep it Simple” will allow PTK to compete with other chapters of the society during regionals. Oliveras said a future college-centered initiative will involve a peer-coaching project that will provide advising sessions and help for prospect and current students to facilitate their integration in the community. Scholarship workshops will also take place on Oct. 10, 14 and 15 at Truax, DTEC and South campuses.

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