This column is one in a series from Public Health Discussions, a student consultancy and awareness group dedicated to identifying and addressing public health issues on campus. Founded in 2017, the group has 15 consultants who have worked on three campus projects regarding mental health, vaping and nutrition, and have hosted numerous public health awareness events on campus.
The “freshman 15” has become synonymous with the first-year American college experience.
The freshman 15 is used to describe the extra pounds gained by first-year students who are just now learning to live on their own — a difficult process, one that often requires time and effort students don’t have. This results in a high consumption of ramen noodles and Red Bull, eating out every night and a general lack of nutritional self care.
Gaining weight as a freshman is generally considered a given, especially when a student’s best on-campus options are either expensive or unhealthy. Lack of nutrition and healthy eating is simply an accepted part of student life — but it shouldn’t be.
In 2017, statistics from the State of Obesity ranked Oklahoma third in the nation in terms of obesity rates, above neighboring states like Texas and Kansas. Outside of obesity, unhealthy eating habits have been linked to a variety of chronic diseases, including higher risk for heart disease, stroke and cancer.
These dangerous public health trends caught the attention of Public Health Discussions, an student organization at OU focused on developing public health intervention for issues on campus.
PHD decided to research nutrition trends at OU in order to promote and actively encourage college students to eat better. The first step was investigating what could facilitate that process.
That proved harder than expected, as there was a lack of transparency in the food available on campus. PHD’s team also found that students faced limited access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables.
To address these issues, the PHD nutrition group is currently working on two initiatives. The first is to organize a monthly service that will provide students the ability to go to local grocery stores where they have access to fresh, affordable produce, modeled after the Target runs done during Camp Crimson by Student Orientation Week.
The second initiative is establishing a system that allows students with dietary restrictions to know exactly what they are able to eat on campus.
If you have any questions or are interested in getting involved, contact PHD at OUphd1@gmail.com.