Food and Veggie challenge raises healthy awareness

Ellie Phillips

The Human Resources Department of Grand Valley State University began its annual Food and Veggie Challenge June 17, with over 150 faculty and staff members participating this year.

“It’s a five-week program where we encourage faculty and staff to start tracking their fruit and vegetable intake and increase it,” said Lindsey DesArmo, health and wellness coordinator.

The program is only offered to faculty and staff, and was formed by DesArmo three years ago, after she discovered an interest in healthy eating resources among the faculty and staff of GVSU. Last year the challenge produced measureable evidence of participants eating more fruits and vegetables, which increased by about one serving, she said.

Each week, participants do a scavenger hunt for specific items that are tied into that week’s goals, DesArmo said. These goals include finding a certain kind or amount of green vegetables, red fruits or a variety of other categories to help expose participants to a diverse selection of choices. Many of these things can be found at the GVSU Farmer’s Market, which partners with the Health and Wellness programs on campus.

The challenge is part of a larger effort to help increase community health and create resources and encouragement for healthy eating on campus. DesArmo and other Grand Valley members have realized that there is nothing currently in place to assess campus health and compare it to previous years or other universities, which could help plan for the future.

To address this issue, DesArmo teamed up with Amy Campbell, assistant director of wellness, as co-chairs of a task force that is working to create and implement these types of assessment programs.

“I would describe it as a group of departments and campus partners with similar missions who are working together to help improve the well-being on campus,” Campbell said.

Departments involved include Campus Recreation, Human Resources, Housing, Campus Dining and many others.

The task force intends to identify areas where the well-being of faculty, students and staff can be improved. The group hopes to create awareness among the departments by increasing interdepartmental communication and effective collaboration, as well as reducing any duplicate programs or services.

One initiative of the task force is to provide recommendations for the university’s next strategic plan to include language on supporting the health and well-being of the campus community. Conducting a student survey to gather health data and benchmarking comparisons to other institutions are also tasks the group has identified.

“We have formed subcommittees that are being charged with specific goals,” Campbell said. “Such as, our Environment group is working on a bike friendly campus, supporting initiatives toward a smoke-free campus and increasing options for creating healthier workspaces.”

Other subcommittees are addressing issues like personal health and responsibility, nutrition and mental health, each with their own initiatives.

“It’s really exciting to see this starting because it’s something that hasn’t been done before,” DesArmo said. “I see this as an ongoing, working group.”

Through other events similar to the Food and Veggie Challenge and the creation of the new Health and Wellness task force, campus health is gaining momentum.

“I am in this for the long haul,” Campbell said. “We have set ourselves up with some very specific goals and it would be great to work with our campus partners on seeing these through. I believe that the communication among departments is extremely helpful, it has created so much awareness of what we all are doing that is related to wellness. “