Brain Food: Let’s Think About What We Eat

One of my recent discoveries is that most students across the country are unhappy with on-campus dining, and the issues we are grappling with here are not limited to Bon Appétit or USF. Not too long ago, I had a conversation with two friends from other universities. One goes to Yale, and the other goes to Oberlin, but neither are in a food-mecca like San Francisco. Both shared a common problem with their on-campus dining options; even though there are multiple choices per meal, many of the food items tasted the same. Both friends hypothesized that the cooks at their schools use the same spices in every meal. With this monotony, eating is not an opportunity for nourishment, pleasure, or relaxation, but a chore. We at USF have a unique opportunity to call San Francisco—one of the world’s most delicious cities—our home. With so many dining options around us, our on-campus options often do not satisfy. This makes me wonder how universal the issue of on-campus dining is, and if it can ever be reconciled.

Issues with Bon Appétit include inflated prices (up to a 200% markup), food quality, treatment of employees, and the company’s supposed refusal to release certain information. This begs the question—is our on-campus dining really below satisfactory? Many experts would disagree; The New York Times wrote that Bon Appétit’s food “deserves to be served with wine”; 7×7 Magazine likens Fedele Bauccio, Bon Appétit’s CEO, to food pioneers Alice Waters and Michael Pollan; The Washington Post reported on the company’s choice to only use humanely raised beef, and The Huffington Post reported on the company’s fight to ban gestation crates for pigs. It seems like Bon Appétit is a company that cares, and is possibly the best of its kind. Of course, if we, the consumers, are not completely satisfied by what it has to offer, then there is obviously some disconnect and room for improvement.

As recently as last November, ASUSF senate took action and organized a boycott of Bon Appétit. There were some food trucks on campus, giving students a convenient, fun option so that they could make a statement without starving. This was a great short-term option, but we will need to find some way to have satisfactory food on campus.

I would just like to inject a little more perspective here, not to say that our complaints are empty, but that we are in a big boat that we share with practically all college students. Actually, we are not just in this boat, but we are at its helm, in a much better position than many other college students. But this makes one wonder if there is a limit to the quality of food, and, ultimately, the quality of life a college student can achieve.

Thus, the issue is not just about food; dining is just one of the many examples of students having an inferior quality of living. Dorm life in general is not of a particularly high quality, and student loans historically have some of the highest interest rates of any. Meals have the potential to give us an opportunity to make a very personal change multiple times a day, and we need to feel some power over what we eat. We should also be able to use mealtimes as a time to step back and dive in, to truly enjoy a break so that we can better do what we came here to do: study. And that is what all of this talk about on-campus dining comes down to; making some of life’s simple pleasures less pleasant, making nourishment seem like a chore. Food is something we come into contact with multiple times a day, something that has the potential to nourish our souls and fuel our minds. There are few things more sacred than sharing a meal with friends, or sneaking a midnight snack into your bed without waking your roommates or parents. We are students, we need brain food in this time in which every inch of our beings are growing in a way that it never has before and never will again.

These issues are not all really Bon Appétit’s fault—they are symptoms of a cultural problem we all have to overcome. We are disconnected from our food; we seldom know where it comes from and how it gets to us, and we are usually too preoccupied with other things to care. We need to find a way to be more connected to what we eat, whether that means on-campus kitchens run completely by students, more student involvement in the current Bon Appétit establishment, or something else altogether. What we need is to take time away from Twitter or Facebook or even face-to-face-complaining and to get together with friends and prepare and enjoy a meal. This is something that everyone, including Bon Appétit wants; their mission statement proclaims, “breaking bread together helps to create a sense of community and comfort”. We just need to get off of our behinds and into the kitchen.

Shame on USF for Boycott Silence

Editor’s note: In last week’s issue, Jan. 31, Charles Morone’s piece was not run correctly in print due to a mishap during the production process. Below is the entirety of his piece, and this is a formal apology for any inconvenience this may have caused.  

Last Dec. 6 the American Studies Association (ASA), founded in 1951, voted to pass a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions and scholars, who would be denied participation in scholarly meetings and conferences in the United States. The Native American Association and Indigenous Studies Association have since joined the boycott. The ASA claims to justify their actions on the grounds that Israel has violated international law and United Nations resolutions. As ASA’s resolution directly states, Israeli universities have been targeted because they are “party to state policies that violate human rights.”

The main impetus for this boycott is the perceived treatment of Palestinian scholars by the Israeli military and government, and the desire to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Clearly, however, this boycott of Israeli institutions is a step backwards in the intractable search for a peaceful resolution to the decades-old Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The main premise of the boycott is in retaliation for Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. But if the main problem is the way a state treats its occupants, why in the world single out Israel? There are so many countries in the Middle East with far worse human rights records. In response to a query along these lines, Curtis Marez, the current ASA President replied “You have to start somewhere.” The obtuseness and ethically convoluted reasoning in his answer is mind-boggling. Yes, most observers agree that the Palestinian people have endured long heartaches, but at what point does “starting somewhere” become blind to suicide bombings and shelling of innocent civilians on the border towns of Israel? Why is no proportional attention brought to the maltreatment of Palestinians in other Arab countries, where they are kept in perpetual poverty and desperation?

Why in fact do we know so much about the injustices perpetrated by the Israeli police and the military? Because Israel has the most free press in the region and a very lively, critical public sphere, all of which are woefully lacking in most Arab countries in the region. Israel not only tolerates free discussion about its conflict with Palestine, but has political parties and organizations that support the Palestinian claim of statehood.

The boycott has triggered an understandably intense backlash. Even inside the organization, the last eight presidents of the ASA have opposed it, claiming that it is “antithetical to the mission of free and open inquiry for which a scholarly organization stands.”

Over one hundred and eighty academic institutions and universities have criticized the boycott, accompanied by bipartisan condemnation of fifty congressmen. Since only one-third of the ASA’s membership voted for the boycott, one can justifiably ask what percent of the ASA’s own members agree with this action to begin with? Given this widespread and justified outrage over a misguided and indeed pernicious boycott, the question for us is, why has USF not raised its own objections? Why are we standing on the sidelines in the face of an obviously unjust, discriminatory action that should shame us deeply? When academic organizations drop all pretense of academic objectivity and join a political cause, a grave and important line has been crossed.

If we as students and citizens really wish to “change the world from here,” it will not happen by condemning Israeli academics, with whom we share so much more culturally and intellectually than with the butchers and criminals of this world, who truly are deserving of our moral outrage.

Generation Citizen: Teach Teens to Make a Difference, While Fullfilling Your Core Service Learning



(Left to right) Tina Celani, senior and current chapter director of Generation Citizen USF, worked with 8th graders Magnus, Oak, fellow democracy coach and USF sophomore Noelle Garza, and 8th grader Tyler to create safer park access for middle schoolers at Kimball Park. (Photo courtesy of Tina Celani)

Are you interested in making an active change in the community? Teaching high school students about political action? Making middle school students feel safer in their own parks and playgrounds?

Generation Citizen is a non-profit organization that aims to solve problems in local communities through civic education. With the help of teachers and trained college volunteers called democracy coaches, Generation Citizen provides middle school and high school students the opportunity to directly participate in their local government through an in-class curriculum designed to get students to work with local leaders to address an issue relevant to them.

Tina Celani, senior communications major, is chapter director for the USF Chapter of Generation Citizen, which started on campus in the fall.

“There has been a huge lack of civic education for low-income students and students in general, and Generation Citizen helps change that,” Celani said. “By working with students to actively identify and address a problem in the community, you have them understand that they can make a change — you give them the opportunity to be important.”

Working as a democracy coach last semester, Celani and her class of 8th graders at the Creative Arts Charter School, worked to increase police presence at the nearby Kimball park.

“My students chose to focus on their local park because they felt really unsafe there,” Celani said. “What Generation Citizen does, is they really want to come up with the root of the cause and actively try to solve that, so after discussing as a class, we came to the fact that there weren’t enough police officers in Kimball park, and drafted letters and petitions to change that.”

Celani and fellow senior communications major Erin McCroskey, outreach director for Generation Citizen USF, are currently seeking student volunteers for the new semester.

Democracy coaches will be assigned a classroom of 15-30 students at a middle or high school in the San Francisco area.

Over the course of a twice-weekly semester-long program, democracy coaches teach a variety of lessons on local government and politics, and then work with their class to select an issue in their community they want to try and fix, like park safety, bus safety, or providing enough school supplies for students.

Then, coaches and students create a strategic plan to take action through various means like lobbying to elected officials through letters and petitions, writing opinion pieces in newspapers, and filming documentaries to create awareness of the issues at hand.

Democracy coaches can work individually or in pairs, and will always have the classroom teacher present with them when working. Generation Citizen provides step-by-step lesson plans to aid democracy coaches, who will meet on campus once a week to go over the lesson with their superiors.

At the end of every semester, Generation Citizen volunteers will have put in about 40 hours of classroom time, culminating in Civics Day, in which democracy coaches and student representatives from each class present their projects to other students, community members, and public officials, and sometimes win awards.

Last semester, Celani and McCroskey’s classrooms both received awards for their respective work in creating safer parks and bus rides.

“You don’t need to be knowledgeable in politics or education to volunteer,” Celani said. “Anyone who is interested in working with middle schoolers or high schoolers who are interested in becoming an effective and engaged citizens — anyone that likes to help to others; that likes to actively solve problems and work with other people; or that wants to gain a fulfilling experience — should apply.”

McCroskey echoed, “Being in Generation Citizen has taught me that education, in itself, is a social movement. I would recommend this organization to anyone and everyone.”

Volunteerwork with Generation Citizen can fulfill the service learning (SL) requirement for certain classes. Be sure to ask your professor if this will count for you.

To apply to become a democracy coach through Generation Citizen USF, visit the official website

    The final date to apply is next Monday, February 3, 2014. 


January Is Healthy Weight Awareness Month

Keep Those New Year’s Resolutions with Help from Koret

    As classes resume this semester, many of us hesitantly pick up our usual routines. Most may be unaware however, that January is healthy weight awareness month: a time to reflect on our holiday eating splurges and head outdoors while the sun is out in San Francisco.

In the United States, 69% of adults over 20 are overweight or obese, as stated on the World Health Organization’s website. While both are preventable, it is important to differentiate between obesity and being overweight. Although Body Mass Index (BMI) measurements do not distinguish fat from muscle, a person with the BMI of 25 or greater is considered overweight, while 30 or greater is obese.

Carrying excess weight increases risk for many preventable obesity related diseases and conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, and certain cancers, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

While high-fat, high-sugar foods tend to be lower in cost they are also lower in nutrient quality. Nevertheless, a diet of instant noodles and energy drinks remains appealing to college students on a budget, despite the fact that they can contribute to excess weight gain.

A balanced diet and engaging in daily physical activity is key to achieving and maintaining physical fitness and lowering the risks associated with high weight or obesity, reports the NHLBI.

USF students are lucky to have a variety of local farmers markets at their disposal, namely the Inner Richmond’s Outdoor Market on Clement Street every Sunday and the Haight Farmer’s Market held Wednesday afternoons. On campus, students also share the benefit of having local and organic food choices in the cafeteria, in addition to a large gym.

All currently enrolled students and faculty have access to Koret Health and Recreation Center, which is open everyday except for university holidays. Koret offers a wide range of activities both in their facilities and out including a pool, cardio equipment, basketball courts, and free group fitness classes in yoga, spinning, Zumba dance, and more. To alleviate those sore muscles, the center also offers physical therapy and massages for a fee.

For the outdoorsy types, Koret recently released their schedule for this spring’s ventures which include Skiing and a night tour of Alcatraz.

Senior sociology major Kathryn Najarian teaches zumba, a Latin-inspired dance-fitness routine, at Koret twice a week. In response to how she maintains a healthy lifestyle, Najarian responded, “I teach zumba, which is always fun. My mom also got me a FitBit for Christmas and it counts your steps which is great because it’s totally motivating. I guess an active person is supposed to walk 10,000 steps per day, and my zumba class is 6,000 steps on average, which is cool to know!”

Physician Assistant at a Southern California Medical and Wellness Spa, Stacey James, 35, highlights the rewards of physical activity, “in addition to helping to control weight, it also reduces stress and increases your energy.” She also emphasizes the effects of feeling short-term versus long-term benefits, “most people don’t feel a reduction in their risk of heart disease, diabetes, or some cancers, which exercise helps combat, but they will immediately feel a difference in their mood.”

“A healthy lifestyle needs to be promoted at all levels,” encourages Laura Mealer, a graduate student in the Master’s in Public Health program. “[There needs to be] a collaboration between parents, schools, the medical community, and the food industry, to educate and support preventative health care,” she said.

The Return of Swine ‘09

In the peak of flu season, a virus that shocked the nation in 2009 has returned. H1N1, also known as swine flu, has been present since the initial pandemic, but this season the H1N1 virus is reportedly emerging at higher levels than ever since 2009.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports, “this is the first season that the virus has circulated at such high levels since the pandemic.”

During the week of Jan. 12-18, 96.8% of the influenza A viruses were H1N1 viruses, according to their Weekly FluView update.

As of Jan. 9, the San Francisco Department of Public Health reported on the death of a flu patient in San Francisco. They confirmed the strain of the virus as H1N1.

One stamp you won’t want to be collecting! Stay healthy during this season’s flu outbreak. (Photo courtesy of Creative Commons)

One stamp you won’t want to be collecting! Stay healthy during this season’s flu outbreak. (Photo courtesy of Creative Commons)

In the past month, the San Jose Mercury reported on eight deaths of swine flu in California — one in the East Bay, one in Santa Clara County, two in Sacramento, one in Orange County, and three people in Stanislaus County.

Professor Chenit Ong-Flaherty of the School of Nursing and Health Professions at USF thinks students are not currently at high risk of catching the virus. “I am not aware of any students with [swine] flu symptoms. Nor any cases around USF.”

Luckily for students, the School of Nursing is part of a national initiative to monitor influenza activity and prevent flu outbreaks in the USF community. Mark Smolinski, MD, of the Skoll Global Threats Fund, partnered with the School of Nursing to introduce Flu Near You on campus.

Flu Near You is a program that tracks flu activity across the nation. Reports are made available to volunteers after they anonymously submit flu-like symptoms, as shown in an ABC 7 newscast.

Judith Karshmer, the Dean of the School of Nursing, appeared on the news report stating, “Flu is something that is really very serious, and is something that we can track and and know how to prevent.”

Professor Courtney Keeler, who led the Flu Near You initiative at USF, recommends using the program to “help an individual remain aware of flu patterns in their own communities. These local trends are important indicators since one’s risk of the flu increases with the incidence of flu in one’s neighborhood,” she said.

Although the risk of H1N1 in the USF community is not currently of paramount concern, Professor Robin Buccheri notes, “A very scary thing about the H1N1 virus that we found in 2009 is that it can be especially serious in children and young adults.”

So why are young adults more susceptible? “The leading theory is that there is something about the flu that resembles the H1 flus that circulated before the 1960’s,” according to Donald McNeil, New York Times reporter and infectious disease expert. “People who were alive in the 1960’s or earlier probably caught it as kids and still have some antibodies and programmed white blood cells floating around that protect them,” said McNeil.

The main way young adults can stay protected then, is immunization. “The flu shot this year, which all nursing students are required to have updated annually, covers H1N1,” according to Professor Kimberleigh Cox. “Immunization and thorough, frequent hand washing, along with rest, sleep, fluids, and adequate self-care are the most important prevention tools,” said Cox.

Flu shots are no longer available to students on campus, but immunizations are free at the St. Mary’s Student Health Clinic on 450 Stanyan Street if students have the USF-sponsored student health insurance plan. Appointments can be made at 415-750-5995 and must be requested at least 24 hours in advance.

     Students interested in participating in the Flu Near You program, can learn more and sign up here