On a typical weekday morning at West Virginia University, the food court at the Mountainlair student union is packed. Theres a long line of students in front of Javas&Cream waiting for their cup ofJoeto get the day started.
Across the room, sophomore Chase Kirk has just gulped down a slice of pizza and has a cold pop in hand.
I eat when I can,he said,but this semester, I have classes all dayone at 8:30, a break from 10:30-12, then classes from 12-3. When I come here, I eat chicken, fries or pizzaa slice or two.
Kirk said he tries to eat healthy, but its not always convenient.
Starting this month, the Universitys Wellness Task Force, under the leadership of Vice President for Student Affairs Ken Gray, is introducing Wellness Centers at the residence halls to help busy students like Kirk think outside the (pizza) box.
The goal, Gray said, is to improve the overall health and well-being of the WVU community by building on other programs already in place at WVU .
Director of Dining Services Jeff DeMoss said the centers will be located in prominent locationsat Hatfields (in the Lair) and each of the residence hall dining rooms including Arnold, Boreman, Stalnaker and Towersand will feature 11 brochures about various health topics ranging from how to lower your cholesterol to what amount of caffeine is okay to how to read food labels.
Table tents with facts about healthy living, along with the Healthy Eating Pyramid devised by nutrition experts at Harvard University, will also be displayed.
Americans are getting heavier and theres a lot of research out there that shows the USDA needs to update its food guide pyramid. So instead of waiting, Walter Willett at Harvards School of Public Health has come out with his very own pyramid thats been endorsed by many health groups and organizations nationwide,said WVU dietitian Bettina Seidman, who researched materials for the new centers.
If you were to compare the two pyramids, the bottom of the USDA s pyramid consists of carbohydrates, but doesnt distinguish between refined and whole grain carbohydrates. The bottom of the Harvard pyramid is daily exercise and weight control. Then you move up the pyramid and there are whole grains and plant oils, which have been shown to protect the heart.
Seidman said stickers, which look like miniature versions of the food pyramid, will be placed on food items as a way to quickly identify healthy selections.
Also, Whitney Combs, a WVU human nutrition and foods major, will conduct a three-week study to determine whether the informational materials at the Wellness Centers have an effect on studentseating habits.
The study is part of Combssenior thesis project and will focus on portion size. Subjects for the research will be 60 residents at the Evansdale Residential Complex.
The Wellness Centers were created as part of a nutrition and wellness initiative implemented last March at the request of WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 60 percent of West Virginia adults are obese or overweight, and about 325,000 deaths in the nation every year are attributed to obesity.
In response, U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd helped establish a Center for Obesity at WVU in 2001 to work with community groups, schools and medical professionals to find innovative ways to reduce obesity and improve health.
Other WVU efforts to increase wellness include the School of Physical Education’s childhood fitness program that encourages physical activity and good nutrition in preschool children; WVU s Student Recreation Center on the Evansdale Campus which offers many options to keep fit including a climbing wall, aquatics, weight and fitness equipment, elevated running/walking track, racquetball and volleyball courts, aerobics classes, fitness testing lab, intramurals and club sports; a Stansbury Fitness Center; and a Health Sciences Center wellness program, wellness center and human performance laboratory, among WVU programs.