Why Is Finding Nutrition Information On College Campuses Such A Scavenger Hunt?
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Why Is Finding Nutrition Information On College Campuses Such A Scavenger Hunt?

Hopefully, information will become more accessible as time goes on.

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Why Is Finding Nutrition Information On College Campuses Such A Scavenger Hunt?
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I've been wanting to unofficially start a project for a few years now, compiling some of the nutrition information for places on campus that aren't readily available on location. Here at JSU, a lot of nutritional information is incredibly hard to come by, but I assumed any information I couldn't easily find on location would be available online. As it turns out, the information ended up being a little (a lot) less available than I thought it would be.

There are precisely 8 locations to utilize your meal plan on campus: The Caf (or Jack Hopper Dining Hall, as you may have heard it once and only once referred to as such at freshman orientation), the Gamecock Diner, WOW (or World of Wings, as some campuses call it), Cocky Q, Chick-fil-A, Baja Fresh, Freshens, and Jazzman's (Café & Bakery).

(I guess there's also arguably a 9th - Simply-to-Go - which offers grab-and-go options like yogurt, sushi, sandwiches, drinks, chips, etc.; although they are prepared in the caf, so you might be able to technically group them there.)

Now when it comes to nutrition information, generally calorie counts are available on the spot. They are on the menus at the retail locations, with little placards at the caf, and in small font on the pictures as you order at the diner.

Here's where I find things get interesting:

Most of the time the placards at the caf are for the correct food item, but this is not always the case. Every now and then what is present is not what is shown on the nutrition card.

There are little "mindful" logos by some of the "healthier" choices; however, there are other healthy options out there without the little logo.

Although you can typically find any additional nutrition information you seek in the world online, here are the problems I found with the information:

1. The Caf / Café / Cafeteria / Jack Hopper / Dining Hall / The Place By The Quad

Not all products are listed, sometimes items listed are not available, and the biggest problem is that many of the "ingredients" listed are just the name of the dish. Example: The ingredients listed in the "seared chicken fajitas?" "Seared chicken fajitas." (It does at least note that it contains milk, wheat, and gluten.)

2. Gamecock Diner

Menus are listed, but no nutrition facts. Calories are listed at the diner as you order, but there is no information (that I have found so far) on fat, carbohydrates, sodium, protein, allergens, etc. I intend to see if I can find some additional information.

3. WOW

The online nutrition information is for the entire restaurant menu, many items of which are not available at our locations. Some of the items at our location (sweet potato waffle fries, mac and cheese, cheese quesadilla, lettuce wraps) did not have the information listed.

4. Cocky Q

The only information online for our JSU-specific barbecue on campus was the menu and prices - no nutritional information.

5. Chick-fil-A

Anyone who's been to an actual Chick-fil-A knows that ours only serves about half as many items as the real deal - and "snacking" isn't much of an option (no small milkshakes, only large; no small fries, only medium; no fruit cups in any size; no superfood sides; no side salad; no soup; grilled sandwiches available by request only). In addition, the online information is clearly outdated.

The product sheet has some good information, but not only does it list products that we don't have at our location; it doesn't have some of the items we do have, it lists products that the main locations do not even have any more, and several of the items listed have changed their ingredients and recipes.

Your best bet for Chick-fil-A nutrition information is to just go to the main site and look for the items that we do have on there.

Pro Tip: Your location will probably automatically be set to the JSU location. Chick-fil-A lists the items that the stores have listed as available at that location, but JSU does not have ANY foods listed as available, so you will not be able to see nutrition information on even the main site unless you set your store as the Oxford (or another) location.

Baja Fresh

The nutrition information JSU lists for Baja Fresh is a PDF copy of the nutrition information from the main site from 2012. Even it has several items that we do not have, but it seems to actually be closer to our menu than the current menu. (It has SO many items, most of which we don't have.) The new nutrition information may still be of some help.

Unless you actually prepare your items exactly as recommended on the menu, the food is kind of whatever-you-want-assembled-together, so most people probably need a-la-carte nutrition information. This isn't necessarily readily available, but some of the item information is available a-la-carte on the old menu, and some items like the queso fundido are available on the new menu website.

Jazzman's

Unlike Baja and Freshens, Jazzman's appears to be just a college campus thing, so I am not sure they have their own website where I could compare current nutrition information. However, I was immediately able to tell that our website's 2011 nutrition information, similar and admittedly thorough, did not have any of the bakery items (croissants or soups, etc.) included.

Additionally, some of the items we do not have at our location, and there was no nutrition information for the almond milk used. Nevertheless, as far as the drink information goes, it appears to be one of the most thorough nutrition information sheets available on campus - for whichever size, flavor, or milk variety suits your fancy. (Minus almond milk.)

Freshens

I was actually pleased with the information Freshens had available on their main website (and the Excel spreadsheet JSU provides was okay as well). It didn't have every last ingredient or serving size, but it did list out the constituents, and it has a Nutrition Facts label for each item. In my opinion, they had the most nutrition information available out of all the locations at JSU, and I noticed several facts that were pretty exciting, as seen in this handy dandy article you should peruse if you're not in the mood to read every last gram of saturated fat in every Freshens menu item: (20 Freshens Facts The Menu Doesn't Show You)

I don't want to prematurely slam on this issue too hard; this is an article mostly on how easily accessible the information is. I haven't tried asking Sodexo or others on campus in person for specific allergen or more detailed nutrition information (as of the time that I am writing this article.) If you or someone you know has reached out for allergen or additional information, let me know how it went! There may be additional information out there in other places.

Having nutrition information so quickly accessible is also relatively new; I can't remember foodservice establishments having the information as accessible as it is now back when I was a kid, so companies may still be in the process of narrowing down and making that information more available.



However, in today's society with so many different dietary needs, allergies, restrictions, etc. (as well as so many people relying on meal plans and people eating out more than they used to), having this information readily available is increasingly important. If you didn't know about the online nutrition facts, I hope this helped you some, and hopefully, information will become more accessible as time goes on.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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