Student Seeks to Create First Comprehensive List of Healthy Dining Options for Colleges Nationwide

Senior Victor Steffen is creating a list of the healthiest off-campus dining options for four-year colleges nationwide. During his research, Steffen reached out to local restaurants in Hamilton, including the Colgate Inn.

Senior Victor Steffen is creating a list of the healthiest off-campus dining options for four-year colleges nationwide. During his research, Steffen reached out to local restaurants in Hamilton, including the Colgate Inn.

Zoe Frishberg

As the focus on making healthy dining options available to students on college campuses has increased nationwide, one Colgate student has taken the initiative to help students find the healthiest options. Senior Victor Steffen has spearheaded an initiative to create the country’s most comprehensive list of healthy dining options on college campuses. He plans on publishing the completed catalogue on his website, which details five to ten healthy menus at restaurants on or around campus for most of the 1,845 four-year private institutions in the United States. 

“The project is going to deliver [information on] the healthiest dining options on about half of the universities in the country,” Steffen said. 

Steffen hopes to publish the healthiest menu items available on 940 different US campuses, over 50 percent of the total number of private four-year institutions, by the end of 2016. 

Instead of focusing on college dining halls, Steffen will focus on off-campus options. 

“[Comprehensive lists of on-campus dining options have] already been done before; there are lots of articles focusing on the healthiest dining options on campus, so I’m more trying to figure out the communities off-campus,” Steffen said. 

To create a comprehensive list of healthy dining options located off-campus, Steffen looks at the geographic region that each school lies in and isolates the restaurants that are most popular among – and accessible to – students on that particular campus. Once he determines which restaurants are student favorites, Steffen reaches out to the owner or manager of those establishments.

“I shoot the manager an email, tell [them] about the project and ask if they want to let me know [about] a couple healthy dining options,” Steffen said.

Steffen also asks the restaurant managers to include an image and brief description of the healthy dish being promoted to add a visual element to this comprehensive list.

Steffen started the project at Colgate, canvassing restaurants in Hamilton for healthy menu options. In that process, Steffen researched the Colgate Inn, the Hamilton Eatery and the Clubhouse. Hamilton’s local restaurants have been very cooperative with Steffen’s project.

“I started already [by contacting] the local restaurants here, and basically every restaurant has been really receptive to it,” Steffen said. 

Steffen started his project at Colgate as a way to gauge the reactions of the restaurant owners in Hamilton before embarking on a more comprehensive, nationwide project. Ultimately, the list’s success depends on collaboration with dining establishments in close proximity to college campuses.

“The task was pretty daunting, so before I dove into all of the schools over the country I wanted to make sure I could do it at Colgate,” Steffen said.

Through his research, Steffen found that Colgate appears to exceed national expectations of healthy dining options around campus, as they are more comprehensive and nutritious than most other private four-year institutions. 

“Based on my preliminary research, we have healthier dining options closer to campus than a lot of other schools do,” Steffen said.

Steffen aims to inform students about their dining options nationwide. 

After he graduates from Colgate in December 2016, Steffen hopes to build a team of current Colgate students to finish the list.

“I’m not going be able to do all of the schools by myself, so if I can get a team together, that would be the best way to go about finishing it,” Steffen said. 

Any students interested in joining Steffen’s efforts to nationally increase health consciousness on college campuses can contact him at [email protected]