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Breakfast in the Marketplace

If you are a current Grinellian, you may be able to guess what this musing [1] is about. If you’re not a Grinnellian [2], you may not know what I mean by the Marketplace. The Marketplace is Grinnell’s primary cafeteria. It provides marketplace-style dining, with different stations that you may visit in any order [3].

Since I’m working at the Grinnell Science Project this week, I decided to stop in for breakfast. Breakfast at this time of year is a bit strange, since not very many people are on campus. We have assorted student leaders (Community Assistants, Student Government, etc.), pre-orientation programs (GSP-POP [4], PC-POP, I-POP, U-POP, WeAllPOP [5]), sports teams (football [6], football [7], sometimes cross country, maybe volleyball), and a few others. Because there aren’t many folks around, breakfast is also offered for a limited time: 8:00–8:45 a.m.

So, what gets served for breakfast? I think of it as hotel continental, light. That is, there’s a waffle bar, some pastries, some fresh fruit, bagels, cereal, yogurt, and beverages. Oh, there’s also peanut butter and a tub of poison [8].

What do departments have to pay to Dining Services for the privilege of having their students partake of this lavish meal? Ten bucks.

But that’s not what I’m here to write [9] about. I’d like you to reflect on the nutritional value of what is being served. Let’s try again: Waffle bar: Simple carbs. Pastries: Simple carbs. Fresh fruit: Simple carbs, but at least unprocessed simple carbs. Bagels: Simple carbs. Cereal: Mostly simple carbs. Yogurt: Dairy, some protein, and more simple carbs (it’s all sweetened). Peanut butter: Fat and some protein. Fake Nutella [10]: Sugar and fat; perhaps some protein.

Is that what we should be teaching our students to eat? As importantly, is that what we should be serving our student athletes while they are training? Certainly not! We should be providing more protein and more complex carbs. I’m not a nutritionist nor do I run a dining hall, but it strikes me that it’s pretty easy to add hard-boiled eggs and some soy-based protein thing for the vegans. And the College has a wonderful wellness coordinator, a terrific trainer, and a nutritionist [11]. You think that dining services could work with them to plan appropriate breakfasts and appropriate options [12].

I’ve raised this issue before and there have not been any changes. I know that others have also raised it with dining services. So, what next? I know! I’ll write to President Kington.

Dear President Kington,

Early on in your tenure at Grinnell, you initiated a wellness challenge for our students. As I noted at the time, I very much appreciate your thoughtfulness about these issues. I expect that you are continuing to think about ways that we can support student wellness.

You may recall that, soon after you began the challenge, I wrote to ask you whether we might supplement the too-many sugary desserts at College events with additional fruits and vegetables, and you had that change made. I thank you once again for supporting that recommendation.

I now write to you again with a nutritional issue. As you know, Dining Services serves a limited menu during pre-orientation. I understand the need for a limited menu, but I find myself concerned about the specifics of the menu. In particular, as far as I can tell, the only protein available is in either sweetened yogurt or in peanut butter. I’m not sure that there are any complex carbohydrates available; there certainly aren’t any vegetables. It strikes me that we could easily provide a more healthy menu with additional options. There are many reasons to do so, not least that it reminds students that a healthy breakfast is more than just sugar and simple carbs. And, as I understand it, it is also important to our student athletes to have protein and complex carbohydrates available to them in their morning meal. But we really should be providing better options for all our students.

Would you be willing to take a look at the typical breakfast menu and perhaps work with dining services, the wellness coordinator, the trainers, and the nutritionist to help ensure that we serve a healthier breakfast?

Thanks very much for your attention to this important issue.

With kind regards,

– SamR

So, dear readers, what do you think? Do you have any suggestions of things to update before I send him a note? I’m dining with him Thursday night, so it might be good to send it to him by Tuesday.

I know that Raynard doesn’t like to read long memos, so I didn’t want to provide the list of the foods that they provide. I was tempted to write You think that they could provide more for the $10 that they charge, but that seemed inappropriately snarky, even for me.

Or maybe it’s all just pointless.

[1] Rant.

[2] Or if you are an older Grinnellian.

[3] Younger readers may not realize that this was not the typical format of a college cafeteria when many of us went to college. We typically walked through one cafeteria line, asking workers what to put on our plate, much like in the stereotypical high-school cafeteria. If we were lucky, there was also a salad bar.

[4] Okay, we just call it GSP, but it’s the pre-orientation program part of GSP, so we really should call it GSP-POP.

[5] The last two do not exist.

[6] The style of football typically played in the USA (with variants in Australia and Canada).

[7] The style of football typically played in Europe, South America, Africa, and almost everywhere else.

[8] You might call it generic Nutella. Since I’m highly allergic to tree nuts, particularly hazelnuts, I refer to it by how it affects my body.

[9] Rant.

[10] Or maybe real Nutella; I didn’t look closely.

[11] I don’t know our nutritionist, so I don’t have an appropriate adjective for him, her, zir, or them.

[12] Our wellness coordinator tells me that appropriate options include processed simple carbs. Students should have choices!

Version 1.0 of 2017-08-13.