Farkas: Northwestern should implement a food and nutrition ENU

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Farkas: Northwestern should implement a food and nutrition ENU

Alana Farkas, Columnist

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Wildcat Welcome Essential NUs, more commonly referred to as ENUs, are an impactful piece of a freshman’s first experience on campus. These sessions that focus on diversity and inclusion, alcohol, sexual health and mental health are especially effective in delivering information because they are interactive and fun.

ENUs are not academic classes. They are not lectures that students will be expected to apply to a career or utilize in their academic performance. But ENUs are still important because they are life classes; the purpose of an ENU is to educate incoming students about how to navigate college life safely and appropriately so students can optimize their college experience. But the ENUs are missing an important piece: awareness and education about food and nutrition, specifically about how to be healthy in college and when food often becomes a problem.

Food plays a substantial role in college life. But beyond the basic understanding of food as fuel for daily activities, there is considerable complexity to the role of food in student life. Food, for some college students, may be associated with stress, overeating, weight gain and the dreaded “freshman fifteen.” Others may identify food as a financial burden. Some may love food and want to make a career out of it. And still some may suffer from physical or psychological illnesses surrounding food.

A freshman’s relationship with food may also change upon entering college. Increased drinking may lead to increased drunk eating, or “drunchies.” Unlimited access to dining halls and C-stores may lead to overeating or eating too much non-nutritious foods like candy and fried foods. And no parental supervision over food may lead to unhealthy eating habits.

Even if these habits of overeating or increased junk food consumption do not occur, fear of weight gain may lead to other unhealthy habits. When I started at NU as a freshman, I was hyperaware of the “freshman fifteen” threat, which led me to restrict my food intake and to over-exercise.

A food and nutrition ENU should be necessary for incoming freshmen. This ENU could teach students important aspects of food and college life, such as nutrition and healthy eating, how one can access inexpensive and healthy food, food allergies and how to be cautious of them, eating disorders and information on how one can access food services like the campus dietician. Access to the campus dietician Karen Sechowski is especially important because she is specifically trained to help students navigate their uncertainty around food.

After speaking to a nutritionist myself, I learned my patterns of over-exercising and food restriction were unhealthy, and having concrete information about food helped me make better choices for my body and my mind. Counseling and Psychological Services also provides specific counselors who address eating disorders. A food awareness ENU could also parallel issues discussed in the mental health ENU and alcohol ENU, because eating and nutrition concerns are often related to both.

Students transitioning from the familiarity of home to the unknown territory of NU life should feel secure in the aspect of life that is always constant: eating. A nutrition ENU could provide the education necessary for maintaining and enhancing reassurance around food and healthy eating habits. A food awareness ENU should reiterate that food knowledge and awareness is important in everyday life, but it is particularly essential in college.

Alana Farkas is a Weinberg freshman. She can be contacted alanafarkas2019@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com.

The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.