UND is the first university in the Midwest to sign on to The Partnership for a Healthier America initiative


Amy Halvorson

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UND is the first university in the Midwest to sign on to The Partnership for a Healthier America initiative

"Healthy" isn't usually the word that comes to mind when many think of Midwest college campuses.

It has the reputation for producing "hearty" individuals rather than "healthy" ones. However, the University of North Dakota is changing that stereotype.

The Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) recently announced its Healthier Campus Initiative and UND was one of the first 20 who signed on for the three-year commitment to make its campus healthier.

"Colleges and universities are in a unique position to help shape tomorrow's leaders, whether they are teachers, coaches, policymakers, CEOs, moms or dads," said Lawrence A. Soler, PHA CEO. "We know that going to college is a time of change for many students — we also know that means it's a time when new habits are formed.

"By creating healthier food and physical activity environments today, campuses and universities are encouraging healthier habits that will carry over into tomorrow."

This nationwide initiative impacts more than 500,000 students and 126,000 faculty and staff.

So far, UND is the only campus in the Midwest to take on this initiative, along with other prominent universities, such as Texas A&M University and the University of California.

Each school that has accepted this healthy challenge has committed to meet 23 out of 40 guidelines that were developed by PHA in collaboration with some of the nation's leading nutrition, physical activity and campus wellness experts. They focus on nutrition, physical activity and campus programming.

UND's effort

The neat thing is that UND has already been meeting the majority of the criteria for this initiative but it isn't settling for good enough. It wants to continue the challenge on its own.

"UND's goal is to make healthy choices the easy choices," said Jane Croeker, UND director of health and wellness promotion.

On UND's list of healthy changes is the potential of offering a "wellness meal" three times a day, healthier catering options, as well as healthier beverages, and expanded walking routes.

"The challenge is driving students to want these options," said Dustin Frize, UND's registered dietician.

  • The "wellness meal" would be another healthy feature in the dining centers, on top of the existing "Guiding Stars Program." There would be a display plate, showing students suggested portion sizes and demonstrating a well-balanced meal made out of the items on that day's menu. There would also be a QR code so students learn about the food displayed on the plate and where to find each item in the dining centers.
  • "My Plate Monday" is another feature UND's dining services just started offering this fall. "My plate Monday" is UND's version of "Meatless Monday," a trend that is popular at other universities. There is a display plate showing what would be ideal, as well as serving identifier cards showing where the food is available. Students majoring in nutrition are the main force behind this program. They promote it by making videos showing how to make "my plate signature item of the day."
  • The dining centers also are offering three desserts equal to or less than 150 calories, and always having a vegetarian option. The dining center have an online ordering option for vegans and gluten-intolerant people where they are also able to meet one-on-one with a dietician and figure out balanced meals that works for them. By the way, it's free for UND students living in the residence halls to meet with a dietician.
  • As far as catering goes at UND, all the healthy options are already available, they just have to be made more visible and highlighted for the consumer.
  • UND also making sure that students always have free, unlimited access to water, periodically, checking buildings and making sure they each have working water fountains.

"By making healthy choices, it's going to be easier for students to meet their personal and academic goals," said Croeker. "Being healthy makes you feel better and perform better."

UND is no stranger to healthy living as it has been ranked No. 1 of the 20 Fittest Colleges on Fitbie, No. 3 on the Healthiest Colleges in the U.S. list, among many other awards for its healthy campus.

"This is both an opportunity to celebrate an opportunity and to challenge ourselves," said Croeker of the new PHA initiatives.

Amy Halvorson University & Public Affairs student writer

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