Fried food gone, poutine still in at Vanier
When Saint-Laurent News visited Vanier’s campus last week to witness the changes firsthand, the reporter was greeted by the sight and smell of cheeseburgers, poutine and pizza. For a crispy chicken wrap combo – served with a garden salad and a fountain drink – students will pay 6,91$. The cafeteria does offer students access to a salad bar. For 1,22$/100gr, patrons can buy lettuce, tomatoes, hard boiled eggs and other veggies.
Students can also purchase a small bag of veggies and dip, but for close to the same price as a hamburger combo.
Small portioned salads – often pasta with mayonnaise or oil based dressing - are sold 3,25$. Vegetarian chili was served at Jack’s, a student café.
Last fall, Vanier College announced that it was setting up measures to encourage healthy eating habits. Fried foods and soft drinks were banned from the menu. But three months later, pizza, poutine and cheeseburgers can still be found on students’ plates.
The college switched food suppliers and signed a five year contract with ChartwellsCompass caterer.
“Vanier is proud to be one of the few colleges in Quebec to ban the sale of both fried foods and soft drinks. Colleges are ideal locations to promote young adult health and with these new orientations we are committed to providing healthier meals to our community,” stated in September Normand W. Bernier, Director General of Vanier College in a press release.
Does the menu live up to expectations? Not necessarily says dietician and nutritionist Stéphanie Saint- Jacques. Teenagers have special nutritional needs according to her. Still growing, teenage boys are expected to ingest from 2,500 to 3,000 calories against 2,200 for teenage girls.
“Teenagers need nutrients. They are not limited calorie wise, but there’s a difference. Empty calories, often coming from fatty foods, should be avoided”, she said.
She applauded the frying ban – poutine and French fries are baked as are the crispy chicken wraps – but wonders if there are not healthier choices to be added or substituted on the menu. She explained that even if fries are baked, poutine is still very dense in calories, once the brown sauce and cheese are added.
“Mind you, it is not a question of banning poutine, hamburgers or pizza. I don’t agree with food bans. But is it necessary to have those items on the everyday menu, where teenagers can eat poutine on a daily basis?”
Darren Becker, communication’s director at Vanier College, is proud of the first steps towards a healthier menu made for students. He points to the addition of the salad bar and vegetarian meals. “Rome wasn’t built in a day. We live in a free country. [Hamburgers] is not necessarily junk food. There’s nothing fried, and that’s better for health.” Chips and chocolate bars are still being sold in vending machines, but Becker said that the choices are color coded: green, yellow and red. Chips are in the red zone, veggie chips are yellow and baked chips are green. “I’m not sure about this gradation. Just the fact that things are in the «red zone» may entice someone to have it”, said Saint-Jacques.
No nutritional information
When asked about the nutritional content of its menu, Chartwells-Compass explained that it simply could not crunch the numbers.
“Many of our food stations, such as our stir-fry station, are self-serve, meaning students can prepare their own plates. As such, due to the complexities and variations of each meal, it would be impossible to provide accurate nutritional information”, stated a representative.
A coulour code helps students distinguish healthy from unhealthy snacks in the vending machine.