OPINION: For A Healthy Student Body, Focus On Food

Graphic by Katie Erickson

While away on spring break, I made note of something that I have subconsciously known for years: I don’t know how to cook. At all. For the first time in my life, I needed to prepare real meals for myself, and I was ill-equipped to do so.

In past instances of hunger, I have been able to microwave rotisserie chicken, whip up some out-of-the-box macaroni and cheese, or just throw together a peanut butter sandwich. However, a week spent undernourished without someone to make dinners for me highlighted my utter inability to take care of myself in this regard.

At school, I have no need to cook for myself. I swipe into a dining hall three times a day, and eat three-course meals prepared for me by experienced professionals. Having returned from break, my sense of urgency in learning how to prepare food dissipated. Be that as it may, soon enough I’ll be thrust back into the world, conceivably hungry and nutritionally deficient.

According to Pomona College’s website, Pomona places “high value ... on [the] health and wellness” of its students. The college requires at least two courses in physical education for all students in order to adhere to this principle. Yet, the College is not exploring all routes towards healthy living for its students.

One such element to wellness, food and nutrition, is not an educational priority at Pomona. In fact, there are no cooking classes offered at the 5Cs. The logic is profoundly unsound: there is nothing more fundamental to physical education than an understanding of the preparation and nutritional value of the foods we consume each day.

In addition to the practical components of learning to prepare food self-sufficiently, learning to cook and prepare food is of critical importance from a health perspective.

Americans are dying from obesity; 18% of deaths in the United States are attributed to that disease. Nevertheless, we continue to consume ungodly amounts of sugar, a substance that may be more addictive than cocaine and is found in everything from processed foods, soda, and condiments to hidden sources, such as granola bars and yogurt.

Without proper understanding of the detrimental effects some foods can cause our bodies in the long term, we will continue to ingest our killer.

Before coming to college, my knowledge of nutrition consisted of elementary-level diagrams found in my school cafeteria — the pyramid of food: its apex, sugar, and its base, grains — and health documentaries on Netflix (I highly recommend “Fed Up”).

No poster or video, though, is able to adequately instruct food preparation, nor inform of the nutritional properties, or lack thereof, in the most fundamental process of consumption to us, heterotrophs. The best way to learn is through person-to-person instruction.

Perhaps some students, particularly females upon whom the societal burden of caretaking is often placed, receive one-on-one lessons from parents or caretakers at home. I, unfortunately, did not receive such schooling from my two working parents — not to say that I ever expressed any interest in learning.

Yes, there are instructional apps, online videos, and cookbooks, but we are not expected to complete our exercise — or academic — courses with YouTube instruction. Videos and books are no substitute for in-person instruction from an expert. Dialogue between student and instructor, as well as personal feedback, are essential components in the stew of a successful learning experience at college.

Just as our P.E. classes are taught by knowledgeable experts who train us in the ways of sport and physical fitness, so too ought the College apply this model to the teaching of food and nutrition: their importance to our health is equal to, or likely greater than, that of physicality.

Pomona is currently under preparing students for the real-world responsibility of cooking one’s own food and accounting for its nutritional value. Although not an end-all be-all solution, in order to provide well-rounded health education for students, Pomona should expand its P.E. courses to include not only exercise, but cooking and nutrition as valid and crucial aspects to health and wellness.

Zachary Freiman PO '20 is a Music and Public Policy Analysis double major from Sleepy Hollow, NY. He dreams of one day meeting Oprah Winfrey.