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."