by, Katie Heneghan, Web Editor
When I entered my sophomore year at Manhattan, I had the worst flare-up of my plethora of health issues I had in years. I could go on and on about my diagnosis, but what’s important is that I am a chronically ill college student in need of nutritional support, given that food is a trigger of mine for pain. I am not alone. I know dozens of people who require special nutritional accommodations that go far beyond allergies.
At the beginning of last year, the campus dietician helped me navigate the dining hall with my various restrictions. My diagnosis means that it’s not so simple to say I have a direct allergy. I needed help navigating the nitty-gritty ingredients of what I was putting into my body. This was virtually impossible to do alone, and if I sought out outside help from a doctor or dietician, they wouldn’t have direct access to where I was eating three meals a day: the dining hall.
The dietician helped me through one of the worst pain flare-ups I have ever had — not only nutritionally, but emotionally, through the difficulties of being ill in college. The dietician was also the only person on campus to ever address the difficulties of having an eating disorder on a college campus. If I did not have that nutritional and health support, I do not know if I would’ve been able to complete my first-semester last year.
Having someone I could talk to about my health issues, as well as providing nutritional support, was priceless for me. Having a nutritionist on campus not only validated my struggles but also provided me with the tools to heal and find ways to control my pain. Not only does a campus dietitian provide nutritional support, but they are also specially trained to help those struggling with eating disorders.
So what’s the point? Why bring this up now? In a response to a question The Quadrangle sent to dining services for another story, The Quadrangle has learned that Manhattan College will not have a campus nutritionist this year, a change that comes as a result of Aramark’s service. Dining Services informed The Quadrangle that instead of a campus nutritionist, “guests can ask a nutrition question from our network of dietitians at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Dining services also told The Quadrangle, “Once it’s safe to do so, we will leverage our network of talented dietitians to hold in-person tabling events designed to provide additional information about how Aramark can support the dietary needs of the Manhattan College community.”
So why should the college care? Why is the lack of a campus nutritionist an issue? Because eating disorders have the highest rate of mortality of any mental illness. College years are when people are most at risk to develop an eating disorder.
Some may argue that the Counseling Center is intended to treat eating disorders on campus, but someone with true knowledge and experience in this realm knows that it goes well beyond counseling. Navigating the intimidating world of food with an eating disorder requires much more than standard counseling. Nutritional support to make sure that students are nourished and safe, while in recovery, is something that a counselor cannot provide.
Especially during a pandemic, students suffering from an eating disorder, or even those without previous disordered habits, may feel especially vulnerable, and feel the need to control. This is what fuels eating disorders. Now more than ever, we need trained staff in our dining halls to help students navigate food in college and the stressors they may feel around it.
Additionally, athletes on campus are adjusting to their new revised training regiments, meaning different nutritional needs. In a study conducted by the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), over 1/3 of female Division 1 athletes reported symptoms and behaviors of Anorexia nervosa. A campus nutritionist plays a pinnacle role in identifying and addressing these possible stressors, warning signs, and behaviors for student-athletes.
Nutritionists, specifically a campus nutritionist, are trained and educated on how to address someone with an eating disorder and how to navigate the intimidating world of a dining hall with an eating disorder. Speaking to someone with an eating disorder about food and their diet is a trained skill.
The campus nutritionist knew how to both address my illness as well as my disordered eating habits in a way to make me feel safe and healthy. I know I am not alone in my need for that kind of support. Having someone on campus to validate my pain and walk me through a healing process was priceless.
Additionally, nutritional counseling comes at a hefty cost. Not every student can afford to seek outside counseling for nutrition, especially given the financial impact of COVID-19 on many families. This gives students yet another reason to not seek out help.
If I hadn’t sought help on-campus last year, I would be in a very different situation health-wise then I am now. The benefits of having a strong nutritional support system on campus are priceless. Nutritional counseling goes so far beyond what you put on your plate in Lockes. The health and wellbeing of all students
An allergy-friendly station isn’t inclusive of all health issues and food restrictions. An allergy-friendly station cannot replace the nutritional support needed to treat an eating disorder. An allergy-friendly station cannot replace an ally on campus.