The Healthy Eating Lab. Yeah, remember that? It used to be where the convenience store is now. I think it had noodles or…fruit or something. It’s really very hard to write an elegiac piece for a place I don’t think I ever went to. Though I guess the fact that neither I nor anyone else ever seemed to actually go there explains why the Healthy Eating Lab met its demise.
As with so many failed establishments, there was likely a point back in its fledgling stages when The Healthy Eating Lab appeared an ideal solution to a legitimate problem. While Late Meal has many devotees, none could argue that Frist has too many healthy choices. And yes, college students will always need a place to get mediocre pizza at 2 a.m., and it is right and proper that Frist should provide that valuable service. But sometimes you need a break from the incessant greasiness of most of the food presented to us in the dining halls and the rest of Frist, and for that a noodle bowl, courtesy of the Lab, would have been quite welcome. In that sense, the Healthy Eating Lab appeared to be a useful addition to Frist. However, it evidently did not live up to expectations.
The main problem, at least in my in-depth analysis (and, due to my having been assigned this article, I feel pretty secure in saying that I’ve spent more time thinking about this than any of the rest of you) was that the Lab operated on charge and cash, and not Late Meal or points. Obviously, if students have already paid for meals, they would be loath to spend more money on other food, even if that other food is much healthier. Whoever came up with the Healthy Eating Lab apparently didn’t recognize this concept, or at least didn’t care. I could probably think of a few other reasons for the failure if I really wanted to keep going (bad location– it was in sort of a poorly-lit corner), but I think that the economic factor was pretty clearly the most important.
But does the end of the Healthy Eating Lab signify anything more…sinister? Surely it must be part of a larger and more elaborate scheme on the part of…someone. Dining Services, the Administration—those who stand to benefit (somehow) from making the campus collectively more unhealthy. In the name of journalistic integrity, I decided to investigate these matters to see if I could uncover the truth. You’re welcome, readers.
First, I went to Thomas Myers, the Director of Frist, in order to see if I could get the real story out of him. Thomas Myers, however, is apparently a very busy man—a suspiciously busy one—who could only meet with me at 9 o’clock on Friday morning. So these explanations came to me by e-mail. Although I can’t properly convey my gravitas and my hunger for the truth in print (this article, for example, is much better when I tell it in person), I think my written questions intimidated him sufficiently to make him cower before the mighty, proverbial pen and spill the full story.
In response to my question of why they would eliminate a valuable and much-beloved campus institution like the Healthy Eating Lab, Mr. Myers said, “The Lab was removed because it was deemed a good location for the C-Store, and because most of the products available at the Lab were available at other places within Frist and on campus, so it was an opportunity to add additional C-Store offerings while not diminishing
the popular items found in the Lab”. At last, the truth comes out. Though I guess that’s actually pretty reasonable.
It’s true, Frist—and the Dining Service food in general— really does need better selection, especially in terms of healthy and vegetarian food. But it seems that if this change ever comes to pass, it will need to be implemented within the food distribution systems that already exist. Don’t give us a separate Healthy Eating Lab with a middling selection of food that can’t go on our meal plan, just give us healthier entrees within the main Frist Gallery.
The expansion of the convenience store is the boon that we get in exchange for the terrible blow that was the loss of the Healthy Eating Lab. And while the expansion of the convenience store seems to have mostly made space for things like tiny cups of Swedish Fish that are selling for $4 (four dollars!), even this does not represent any conspiracy on the part of, say, the school and its investment in Big Agriculture, who produces plenty of cheap subsidized corn, made into cheap high-fructose corn syrup, made into things like Swedish Fish, which then leads inexorably to…grade deflation? I’m not sure. Somehow, this one actually seems pretty hard to pin on the greed/short-sightedness/megalomania of the current administration.
But for those of you Frist-watchers who are eagerly awaiting whatever new change tomorrow may bring, I’ve got an advance tip for you. Think: if the Healthy Eating Lab is gone, and the C-Store moved into its old spot, what will go where the C-Store used to be? Our old friend Tom Myers has the answer to this one too: “In place of the C-Store, a new ice cream and coffee shop will open, called Witherspoon’s – the space will look different and we hope be very appealing and exciting to members of the university community”.
And I know that this is the time when I should probably offer an inspired polemic about the ready availability of Small World coffee and Bent Spoon ice cream on this campus at the expense of more varieties of organic tofu or something, but forgive me for thinking that this “Witherspoon’s” thing actually sounds like it will be sort of—and forgive this word, too– cute. No, it’s not anything new, and in that way it may actually suffer from the same problems that the Healthy Eating Lab did, but I am waiting; I am waiting for it to appeal to and excite me and the other members of the campus community. Even as it does, though, every so often I’ll stop into the C-Store for a cup of Swedish Fish, and remember what once was, and sigh a little, and be sad.