University should focus on healthier food options, not Panda Express

SF State students may soon be a short walk away from dining at the nation’s leader in Chinese fast food if a deal between University Corporation and Panda Express brings the restaurant into the lower level of the Cesar Chavez Student Center.

I know I love a fresh plate of Panda Express’ orange chicken with fried rice and a fortune cookie for dessert, but I don’t believe it’s a good idea for SF State to make it a part of our daily food selection. UCorp needs to be more mindful of what nutrition they are providing their students.

If students are really craving their favorite entree from Panda Express, they can easily take a five minute walk to the Stonestown Mall. But placing one on SF State’s campus is just unnecessary.

Placing Quickly on our campus was already a poor decision, and I’m reminded of that when I’m in class and someone walks in with an order of smelly fried calamari and leaves greasy fingerprints on their papers as an unhealthy reminder. Our school should focus more on making healthy, sustainable food options available for its students so we can be properly fueled for a long day of studying. Panda Express is not one of them.

Approving UCorp’s proposal to allow the national chain restaurant to make a new home at SF State would have a negative effect on our campus’ overall health. There are 982 calories in a single pate of orange chicken with a side of fried rice and a fortune cookie, according to Panda Express’ nutritional information found on their website. That number does not even including a soft drink, which can easily add another 150 calories, making lunch more than 1,000 calories.

Panda Express will definitely play into part of every student’s fear of the “freshman 15,” as if Village Market’s delicious, late-night pizza didn’t do enough. We should be considering the placement of a more affordable and nutritious vendor at our University from which students can benefit.

When 1 p.m. hits and your stomach starts growling, looking for a nutritious food option at SF State isn’t always easy. The few healthy alternatives students really have to choose from include Subway, Healthy U and Natural Sensations, yet other CSU campuses have multiple sustainable health options for their students.

CSU Fullerton is home to a Panda Express location, yet they have plenty of other desirable vendors that offer beneficial meals to their students, including the Fresh Kitchen vendor, which serves organic and environmentally mindful cuisine to hungry students, according to the CSUF website. Furthermore, everything is served in sustainable packaging and they offer vegetarian and vegan options as well. We need more vendors like this at SF State.

In May 2014 the CSU Board of Trustees approved a statewide sustainable food policy, according to food activist group Real Food Challenge’s website. Under the new policy, each campus will have until 2020 to ensure that at least 20 percent of all university food spending goes to farms and food businesses that meet the Real Food Challenge. Making Panda Express a permanent vendor at SF State will stand in the way of reaching this goal.

Panda Express has more than 1,500 restaurants throughout the United States and Puerto Rico and is America’s fastest growing Chinese restaurant concept, according to Panda Express’ website. Many of these locations have been rapidly expanding into university sites within the past couple of years including Arizona State University, Kansas State University, University of Michigan, University of Oregon and Oregon State University.

If UCorp cared about the health and wellness of students, they would not agree to allow Panda Express in the Cesar Chavez Student Center. Doing so would go against our goal of working towards a more sustainable campus.

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