Campus dining may boost grades

Study found grade-point averages escalated as students increased visits to campus dining center.

July 9—Eating meals at a college dining hall may be a contributing factor to improved academics and social life, according to a new study by Kansas State University.

Abigail Bauer, who recently earned her master's degree in public health from K-State, analyzed the effects that communal eating at a university dining center had on grades and perceived social support in first-year college students. She discovered that students' grade-point averages escalated as they increased the number of times they ate in a campus dining center and with others. Students also reported having better social support.

"This preliminary finding supports the notion that eating with other people and in campus dining centers is helpful for freshman students," Bauer said. "Eating a meal is an important time for students to relax, talk to people and form relationships. It’s a time for nourishment for their bodies and for their well-being."

Bauer polled more than 300 freshman students who ate in Derby Dining Center, which serves Ford, Haymaker, Moore and West halls at Kansas State University. In online and in-person surveys, 62% of students said that eating in the dining center made them feel more socially connected, while 77% said they were rarely or never lonely when people sat near them in the dining center.

Students who ate at least 11 times a week in the dining center earned an average GPA of 3.4, according to Bauer's study, but those who ate fewer than seven times per week in the dining center earned an average GPA of 3.0.

"I can't really say why, because this was just a snapshot in time," she said, "but this study leaves a lot of room for further research."

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
vote buttons pins

On every other Thursday of our four-week cycle menu, we allow K-8 students to pick the entree choices. The media center specialist for each of the participating schools sets up the list of entree items on a computer for voting, and the winning entrees are given to cafeteria managers two weeks before the upcoming month to put into production. Students really like this, as it promotes ownership of the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chalkboard

We highlight our North Carolina products on a large chalkboard in our dining halls, and also list any produce we bring in from our own agroecology farm. It helps tell our story—positive and local.

Ideas and Innovation
raised garden beds

We have raised garden beds that residents can reserve and use to grow their own plants. Whenever a resident brings me fresh produce from their own garden, I try and incorporate it into a dish. If I do end up using it, I will display the resident’s name and what the produce was next to the dish on the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chartwells teaching kids

Curriculum for the mobile teaching kitchen centers around a single kid-friendly recipe, using ingredients that can provide talking points for nutrition, sustainability and food origins. “The recipe is the lesson,” Saidel says. “Every ingredient is an opportunity to talk.”

Earlier this year, Saidel, Perkins and Harvey did a student demo featuring roasted chicken and white bean tacos with greens and citrus salsa. “We can say, ‘Why are we using chicken instead of beef? Why are there some beans in here?’ You can talk about plant proteins and the sustainability and health message around...

FSD Resources