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University of Iowa News Release


Feb. 26, 2008

Initiative encourages IMU visitors to make healthier food choices

University of Iowa students, staff and faculty are making healthier food choices at the Iowa Memorial Union, thanks to an initiative by Student Health Service, IMU Food Service and UI Wellness.

"Healthier Option," first implemented in the fall 2007 semester, gives individuals the opportunity to select yogurt or a piece of fruit instead of chips or a cookie as a side item to the daily special at the IMU's Union Station Food Court.

The program aims to help customers improve their eating habits without having to pay extra. The daily-special option and healthy alternatives are advertised each day with a poster at the front of the entrance to the Union Station.

"It is often the perception that healthy choices cost a lot more than unhealthy choices," Megan Moeller, UI Wellness coordinator, said. "Oftentimes this can be the case, but it is not necessarily true at campus dining centers like the IMU."

The initiative was formed in response to a spring 2007 National College Health Assessment Survey of UI students, which found that less than 10 percent eat enough fruits and vegetables, based on the new food pyramid established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2005.

"We actually have a fairly high percentage of students -- over 65 percent -- who fall within a healthy weight range," said Kathy Mellen, a dietician at Student Health. "But since they are not eating nearly enough fruits and vegetables, we decided to concentrate on behaviors rather than making weight the focus of the outcome."

As many as 49 percent of faculty and staff reported low fruit and vegetable intake, and 58 percent reported unhealthy eating overall, according to 2007 Health Risk Assessment data from UI Wellness.

During the fall 2007 semester, about 25 to 30 percent of individuals purchasing the daily special opted for the "healthy upgrade" on a daily basis, Moeller said.

"Considering that not a lot of marketing has been done around this new project, we consider it a success," she added.

"It's really about trying to tackle two things. One is that we know most adults need to improve their eating, especially in terms of fruits and vegetables," Mellen said. "But it's also about trying to overcome that barrier of budget and money for improving your eating, as well. Being able to make a substitution without the extra cost is extremely important."

"Healthier Option" will continue to be offered Sundays through Fridays at the Union Station throughout the spring 2008 semester.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5139 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

MEDIA CONTACT: David Pedersen, 319-335-8032,; Writer: Brandy Huseman