CONNECT Picnic focuses on healthy eating

Freshmen Brittany Mann, left, and Allison George, both of Portland, sample the healthy food available at the OSU CONNECT New Student Picnic on Sept. 20. Photo: Theresa Hogue)

As the sun slowly headed westward across the Memorial Union Quad last Thursday afternoon, the lawn turned into an impromptu dining hall as thousands of freshmen sat cross-legged in the grass, munching on teriyaki skewers as they chatted. The annual CONNECT New Student Picnic is an opportunity for students to unwind, socialize and visit a large group of resource booths scattered around the Quad, and this year’s event offered a way for OSU organizers to showcase some of the university’s healthier eating options.

CONNECT Week is organized by New Student Programs & Family Outreach, and helps get new students oriented to campus. The picnic is one of the many events that freshmen get to participate in during the week, which precedes the first week of classes.

Be Well, an OSU organization representing the Healthy Campus Initiative, focuses on helping members of the OSU community to be active, eat healthy, manage stress and stay smoke-free. Be Well sponsored this year’s picnic, and worked with OSU Catering to ensure that the meal they served up met the recommendations of MyPlate, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s campaign to promote a healthy diet. This year’s menu included grilled chicken or tofu teriyaki skewers, steamed brown rice, stir-fry vegetables and fresh pineapple.

Portland natives and freshmen Brittany Mann and Allison George stood together and held up paper plates brimming with rice and teriyaki skewers. They both agreed that the meal was better than the usual hot dog and burger affair.

Teriyaki skewers, brown rice and pineapple were available for new students during the picnic in the MU Quad. Photo: Theresa Hogue

“I want to try and eat healthier,” said Mann. The picnic got them off to a good start.

“As students transition to the university setting, we want to make sure they think about healthy eating as an important part of their success here at OSU,” said OSU Housing and Dining nutritionist Tara Sanders. “By teaching them about MyPlate, and how to create balanced, healthy meals when visiting the dining centers on campus, hopefully we’re providing the tools they need to make good food choices.”

At the central Be Well tent, students had a chance to play nutrition-related games, as well as take photographs with Benny Beaver. Near the food lines, representatives of Fresh from the Faucet handed out reusable steel water bottles and encouraged picnic-ers to fill them up at several water stations set up nearby.

A performance by OSU cheerleaders, the marching band and dance team kept the students entertained, and plenty of booths offered them the chance to play games, win prizes and learn about other ways to keep themselves healthy, including cultural and resource centers and clubs, which will help freshmen become involved in the campus community, a key step to making the university experience a positive one.

For more information on Be Well, go to: http://blogs.oregonstate.edu/bewell/

To learn more about MyPlate: http://www.choosemyplate.gov

~ Theresa Hogue

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