Opinion: Meal Plan Options Should Reflect Student-Athlete Needs

(Photo by Mac Robertson)

Student-athletes endure a unique set of challenges on college campuses: they juggle classes, homework and practice. Because of this, it is essential that they stay fueled each day with correct nutrition.

Many student-athletes have raised concern over the food portion sizes and food variety at the Eat Shop, located in Albion College’s Kellogg Center. As a student-athlete myself, I have been affected by a few of these issues.

Late-night practices are a typical occurrence for many student-athletes on campus. Throughout my week, I go straight from a night practice to a study session for class. With an already limited number of food sources on campus, a stop by the Eat Shop is the only option I have. There are times that I do not receive enough food in my rice bowl to fill me up for the rest of the night.

A trip to Baldwin Cafeteria would have given me a larger range of options, but Baldwin closes at 8:00 p.m., whereas the Eat Shop does not close until midnight. These hours force many student-athletes to rely on the Eat Shop for their dinner. The hours ultimately restrict where a student-athlete can eat after a long practice.

Most student-athletes are on a meal plan, and meal swipes can only be used to purchase burritos, rice bowls, sandwiches or salads at the Eat Shop. There are additional sides that can be added on including fruit, pudding and milk. These sides are often too small in quantity to successfully leave me feeling satisfied.

Since there are only four items that can be purchased, the lack of meal variety has been an issue raised as well. I enjoy this food, but I would like to see more options for meals and sides.

Many student-athletes are voicing these complaints.

“I pay so much for a meal plan, yet the portion sizes are consistently inconsistent,” said senior swimmer Matt Anderson of Southgate, Michigan.

The issue was brought to the Student Athlete Advisory Committee’s (SAAC) attention. SAAC is an organization that works for student-athletes on campus to ensure they get the most positive experience possible.

“For many student-athletes, the Eat Shop serves as their only on-campus source of food after their late night practices,” said Katie Ferrero, as senior from Royal Oak, Michigan, and SAAC president. “The portion-controlled structure at the Eat Shop just isn’t sufficient enough for post-practice or competition.”

There are certain portions that Albion College’s food provider, Bon Appétit, sets, but each person on campus should be allowed to get the portion size that they want. Students pay to receive meal swipes, so they must receive the proper amount of food they need.  SAAC is now working closely with Bon Appétit to ensure that student-athletes are able to refuel with proper nutrition.

“In response to the raising complaints of food on campus, SAAC has formed a SAAC Nutrition Committee,” said Ferrero. “In this group, SAAC executive board members and other student-athletes are able to meet with members of Bon Appétit and the college treasurer to try and come up with some solutions to the problems the student-athletes are facing.”

SAAC has already started to implement some solutions to the small selection found at the Eat Shop. “Slight improvements have been made in the Eat Shop, such as wheat bread [on sandwiches], more protein-focused side options, chocolate milk being a drink choice, and some changes in the additives available for the bowl/wrap options,” said Ferrero.

Although there are some changes being made to the Eat Shop, it would be helpful to see more change being made around campus. Extending the hours Baldwin Cafeteria is open would give student-athletes more flexibility after practice.

Alternative options could include having self-serve rice bowl stations. Ultimately, the addition of a snack shop in the Dow Recreation and Wellness Center would give student-athletes a quick and healthy option after practice.  

Selection variety must also continue to grow so that student-athletes can properly refuel their bodies each day. Juggling practice and class takes plenty of energy, and student-athletes need the correct portions of food to receive it.


About Maclean Robertson 19 Articles
Maclean Robertson is a senior Communications Studies major from Zeeland, MI. Most of his time is spent staring at a line on the bottom of a pool. When he is not swimming, he enjoys traveling and watching endless hours of sports.

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