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Dining to put more focus on health

USF is only one of two universities with Olilio, a health-focused dining option. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

The average college student tends to struggle with his or her diet. Students can overeat due to the amount of food that’s available or undereat due to stress from work or class, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this fact can make it hard for students to maintain a balanced diet.

With these tendencies in mind, USF Dining has been working over the years to offer students accessible and healthy options. When The Hub dining hall opened the beginning of fall semester, dining officials spoke on the number of healthier options available.

Similar sentiments have been expressed about the new Olilo location in the Juniper-Poplar POD Market, which opened the beginning of the semester. Olilo, made by Iron Chef winner Cat Cora, features Mediterranean-inspired rice and vegetable bowls. The bowls are created with a base such as rice or lettuce and are built up with different toppings such as meats, avocado, chickpeas and salsa.

“Olilo is really a play on olio,” Cora said in the announcement of her partnership with Aramark. “It’s olive oil, its the Mediterranean diet. It’s health and wellness. It’s actually something you can eat every day.”

USF is one of two universities with Olilo on campus. One of the draws of the option for dining was the idea of it being a health-focused option for students.

“We’re able to train our staff on how we can make our menus healthier and our fruits and vegetables we provide to students,” said Jessica Cicalese, marketing director with USF Dining. “We make recommendations to our team to make our menus more healthy and provide that to students.”

Along with opening Olilo on campus, dining has partnered with the University Lecture Series to bring Cora in for a lecture during the semester, according to Cicalese. Her speech will focus on being an entrepreneur and her focus on healthy dining.

While some changes in dining come from the new locations, dietitian Mary Waddill is also working to ensure healthier options are available at the older dining facilities as well.

She helped organize a fruit or vegetable of the month program where each dining hall will be offering a different special each month that’s locally grown and in season. For February, the dining halls are offering strawberries as the speciality fruit. Last month, it was kale.

Additional labeling at the different stations in each hall is geared toward letting students know quickly whether that option is considered by Waddill to be nutritionally balanced or low calorie. Those stations are marked with a leaf-inspired graphic that says what the food is designed to be, such as low calorie.

“I think that health and wellness is something that’s a big focus for students everywhere, but particularly at the University of South Florida,” Waddill said. “I think that health and wellness is impactful for college students as they’re working hard studying, hanging out with their friends, exercising, everything. Having healthy options available is something we want to provide them.”