Organic diets offer a healthier alternative

by Beacon Staff • November 16, 2005

Recently, I received a care package from home. Not your average package with cookies and brownies, but instead an organic, free trade chocolate bar and the September issue of the alternative magazine Ode, in which my organic mommy had marked the article "You Do What You Eat."

It got me thinking: if Tufts University, Cornell University, Vassar College, Middlebury College (recently recognized by the Organic Consumers Association in the article "More Colleges Supporting Local, Organic Farmers") and other schools around the country are making strides to offer organic, wholesome food in their cafeterias, then how has Emerson College been left out of the mix?

Granted, the food at Emerson is great; it's a pull for many incoming freshmen. But, if the school offered organic options (foods free of over-processing, hormones, and free range and pesticide-free produce) in the Dining Hall, I know I would have had no second thoughts about attending Emerson.

Many new studies point toward the importance of a healthy diet for improved mental and physical health. Now, just imagine how much difference a simple change in diet could make for Emerson's average student. Diet should therefore be every student's first concern when walking into the dining hall or C-Store.

If these places offered organic food, would students go for it?

Coming from an organic family and living in the Wellness Community, a floor in the Little Building dedicated to teaching students how to live a healthier life, I have seen a large demand for organic food at Emerson since it tastes better, is more nutritious and can improve your health.

Eating organic can be difficult for many Emerson students. Both Trader Joe's and Whole Foods stores take quite a trek to get to from campus, especially in colder weather, and the price of organic food is significantly higher than regular groceries.

With the nearest food store blocks away from Emerson's campus and no organic grocer close by, many students just give in and purchase their food from Emerson's C-Store.

Lainie Frost, an 18-year-old freshman print journalism major, said, "The C-Store offers Odwalla, but I feel like Emerson is forcing you to just use one type of 'organic." I learned about Odwalla in The Corporation. [In this documentary, corporations who were fined billions of dollars for violating environmental regulations were listed, and Odwalla was one of these corporations] and then I feel like there's no other option."

Outside of supplying students with good nutrition and aiding students' performances, buying organic products to use in the dining hall would also be a way for Emerson to help the local economy and make a new eco-friendly name for itself.

Many independent organic farmers are struggling against big businesses that supply supermarkets with their produce and livestock. I've seen this firsthand.

My family belongs to an organic co-op (a cooperative society in which the consumers and producers of organic agriculture share the burdens and successes that come with each crop season) in Vienna, VA along with many other families.

If the farmers have a good season, we get lots of vegetables, fruits and flowers. If the farmers have a bad season, however, we get fewer crops.

The beauty of this system, whether you gain from the seasons or not, is that you are a part a community in which the consumers are supporting struggling farmers by allowing them to profit no matter the harvest.

If Emerson were to get involved with an organic co-op like this, options would open up for students in more ways than just organic dining hall selection. The school would have a community, allowing students to make ties with smaller business that need the help.

So why hasn't Emerson taken the organic approach yet? It's because the price of conventional food is cheaper than that of organic food; just look at the price difference between the produce at Walmart vs. Whole Foods.

But, saving money should not be the school's main priority. If the administration isn't going to come to this realization on its own, then the students need to do something about it: e-mail administrators, put suggestions in the suggestion box, boycott the processed meat and junk food sections offered in the dining hall and C-Store.

We need to show Emerson that we care enough about eating healthy that we can and will make a fuss.

Kristen Golden is an undeclared freshman and a contributer to The Beacon.