By Heather Johns
LEWISBURG, Pa. — Eating healthy at college can be a challenge, especially for first-year students making the transition from their home kitchens to campus dining facilities that offer any food their hearts — and mouths — desire.
Tanya Williams, a clinical dietitian and sports nutrition specialist who contracts with Bucknell University to provide medical nutrition therapy, wanted to find a new way to help guide students toward healthy food choices.
"I had to figure out how I could educate students in my office and know that my advice is being followed in campus dining locations," said Williams. "To achieve that goal, we developed the Bucknell Nutrition Initiative Program."
Launched in January 2013, the Bucknell Nutrition Initiative Program (BNIP) is a collaboration between Bucknell's Division of Student Affairs, Parkhurst Dining and Williams. It promotes and encourages nutrition awareness to the campus community by identifying healthier food choices in Bucknell dining locations with a specially designed image.
"It's made nutrition counseling sessions so much more effective because we're able to say, 'Look for the BNIP image,'" said Williams. "It's a continuum of care. It's nice to know that everyone is on the same page."
Dean of Students Susan Lantz said BNIP helps educate students about the nutritional choices they're making. "Food is such an important part of every student's life, and it's available all the time on campus," she said. "It is a little overwhelming to walk into the different dining locations and decide what to eat. It's not always obvious what nutritional values the food has, what portion size is ideal and if it's right for your diet. BNIP makes that information available, and that's great for our students."
A key part of BNIP's success is delivering its message in a student voice. The Bucknell Well Facebook page is managed by student interns who post examples of healthy meals they've created from the day's menu in Bostwick Marketplace, along with nutrition tips. Madison Eckles '13 helped launch the program; Rachel Franz '14, Maddie Pucciarello '14, Sarah Frank '14 and Cecily Carr '16 are 2013-14 BNIP interns.
"It's exciting to help students learn about the impact the food they eat can have," said Franz. "Proper nutrition is critical to a functioning body, especially a college student who has morning classes, exercises in the afternoon and stays up late completing homework and studying. Bucknell has a pretty fit campus, but there is a lot that can even be learned about maintaining a healthy body weight."
One way BNIP is helping students on the go is with a popular addition to campus menus: Bison Barz, Bucknell's new, homemade-style nutrition bars.
"Bars are a convenient, portable snack or meal replacement for people who normally eat a healthy diet," Williams said. She developed the bars with Parkhurst pastry chef Steven Benscoter and baker Vern Weller, making sure to emphasize portion size and carbohydrate-to-protein ratio.
The result is two pre-workout Bison Barz — Sustain, an almond honey bar; and Energy, made with oats, cranberry and apricot — as well as Recovery, a double-peanut bar to help replenish the body after exercise.
Even bigger things are in store for BNIP in 2013. New Bison Barz flavors, health fairs and courses that teach healthy cooking and shopping are among the planned projects.
"The response has been fantastic," said John Cummins, general manager for Parkhurst Dining Services at Bucknell. "It's exciting to develop programs that are unique and meet the needs of student-athletes, as well as the rest of campus."