As students scamper from class to class and slip into the lines of the nearest campus eatery, they often choose a quick bite from the array of tasty to-go options ranging from protein boxes to shake salads. However, some may have noticed an element missing from the packaging of their food: a nutrition label.
But next fall, because of a new FDA requirement to implement clearer, easier to read nutrition labels, Bon Appétit will provide Seattle University students with more nutritional information including nutrition labels on to-go items, a development of standardized recipes and caloric information displayed on some of the menus.
As for why the company is just now opting to implement nutrition labels: “It just hasn’t been required,” said Jay Payne, General Manager at Bon Appétit.
“All the static menu items that we see in the cafés all the time are going to have menu labeling according to the new FDA guidelines in the fall,” Payne said.
By static menu items, Payne means items that are on the menu for at least 60 days.
Sophia Cooper has been a Bon Appétit cashier and barista for the last year and a half. She has worked at most Seattle U locations including Cherry Street Market, the Hawk’s Nest Bistro, the Sidebar, the Bottom Line and the Byte.
Cooper said that the lack of transparency isn’t unique to Bon Appétit, and that other national corporations are equally unclear about nutrition information. However, Bon Appétit, which has the monopoly on campus, might have more of a responsibility to disclose the information since all underclassmen are required to purchase meal plans through the company.
“It’s just kind of how consumerism works. But I don’t think it’s fair for college students who are forced to buy the food to not know,” Cooper said. “It’s the fact that it’s the day-to-day, that we have to be eating this food every day, that kids should know.”
Emily Kolar is a cashier and barista at the Bistro. She spoke of a time when she tried to be vegan last year, but struggled to find nutritional information.
“I couldn’t find any kind of information. I could kind of find some online, but definitely not as much as I wanted,” Kolar said.
Currently, nutritional information is sparse. Pamphlets are displayed at various Seattle U eateries that read, ‘Know What You’re Eating.’ However, a significant amount of information is omitted, including that for popular food options like sushi, Fire Wok, the pasta station, burritos and burrito bowls.
But according to Payne, next fall students can expect to find caloric information of static menu items displayed at many of those stations.
Kolar said that this information is necessary, because the food served at the Bistro isn’t particularly healthy.
“I mean, they call it the cheese-stro. It’s all cheesy and fatty and I don’t think anybody has any idea what’s in their food,” Kolar said.
Kolar said that the students she sells food to don’t seem concerned about the nutritional value.
“People never ask about ingredients,” Kolar said. “So I think people definitely don’t do enough digging on their own, but Bon App is a little deceptive in that way.”
Payne described Bon Appétit as a “chef driven” company, meaning that they don’t use many standardized recipes. The chefs, who have a certain level of autonomy, hand-make the majority of the food in the C-Street kitchen.
“Because we’re a chef-driven company, we don’t have the sort of standardized, cookie-cutter recipes that a lot of our competitors in contract food service have where you go and get the same salad dressing at every Sodexo or whatever kind of place. There’s so much handmade here that for us, it’s going to be a switch to some things that have to be switched over to standardized recipes,” Payne said.
Cooper said that the Bon Appétit chefs strive to make delicious food for the students.
“It [the kitchen] is actually a very artistic place. The chefs there really love what they do and they really have a passion for the food that they’re making,” Cooper said. “They’re really trying to create delicious meals to give to the students. I don’t think it crosses their minds to give them healthy things.”
Payne said that because the food stations are so personalized, it’s hard to determine specific nutritional values.
“So many of our stations are all customized. There could be several million permutations of how you could order a hamburger on The Grill,” Payne said.
Payne said that while Bon Appétit supports healthy choices, the company’s job is not to dictate what students consume.
“We try to emphasize healthy eating, but there’s a whole lot of people, they don’t like to be preached at, they don’t want to hear about it, and they want a hamburger and French fries and they don’t want to feel guilty about it. And that’s totally fine,” Payne said.
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