Packing a lunch is healthier and more affordable for students

Witney Dunn says she spends an average of 10 dollars a day on lunch from the school cafeteria. Witney Dunn says she spends an average of 10 dollars a day on lunch from the school cafeteria.

Sully Akbari

When time is money, Witney Dunn says she has the money but not the time.

And when it comes to making herself a lunch, Dunn, a 20-year-old third-year Ontario College of Art and Design graphic design student, gets to the heart of the problem.

“I never have time to pack a lunch because it would take valuable time away from my schedule,” she said. “Instead, I buy a lunch at school.”

Buying or packing a lunch becomes a lifestyle as a post-secondary student, but there are big differences in cost and healthiness with the home-packed lunch. For Dunn and many other students, the daily lunch purchase is a big money drain.

“I go to school Monday to Friday and spend about $10 a day,” she said. “So adding that up gives me $50 on lunch spent each week.”

The majority of Dunn’s money is spent on buying lunch at school. She buys lunch every day when she is on campus.

Dunn never looked at her long term expenditure. Spending $50 a week equals over $200 a month and $1,600 over the course of a school year.

“Now that I look at it, $1,600 over a school year is ridiculous,” she said. “I can’t fathom that.”

Now knowing how much she spends, Dunn said she should have saved money towards her tuition or other important expenses. Still, Dunn said she has not been eating healthily ever since she started to buy lunch at school.

“The food bought from the outside world is unhealthy, a slice of pizza or a burrito is the quickest meal for me,” she said. “Unless it is prepared with the ingredients you buy at a grocery store, it is unhealthy.”

Amber Copostosto, a Food and Nutrition Management professor, couldn’t agree more.

“As long as a packed lunch is corresponding with Canada’s food guide, students will get the adequate nutrients needed from their fruits and vegetables, protein, grains and dairy products,” she said.

Dunn said she is now going to change her eating habits as well as prepare lunch from home to take to school.

Students who do pack a lunch for school do it for the reason of knowing what they are eating well and saving money.

Second-year Ryerson University student of interior design Ivanka Chachula, 20, is no different.

“I always pack a lunch because I know what I am eating, I can prepare it myself and it is cost effective,” she said.

Chachula uses the same routine when she prepares her lunch.

“It takes me half an hour to prepare my lunch the night before,” she said. “If I’m up late the night before, I pack my lunch before I leave for school in the morning.”

Chachula says her downtown campus lunch items are expensive and it doesn’t make sense to buy lunch from there.

“The amount that is spent on one grocery trip lasts me the entire week for packing a lunch and the cost is about the same as one meal from a fast food restaurant,” she said.

The fast food restaurants around Ryerson University are what keep students like Chachula away, as they can lead to an unhealthy diet.

Another factor that complements Canada’s food guide is balancing meals in the right moderation.

“Having a hamburger and fries for lunch can do some damage,” Copostosto said. “However, a sandwich and a salad on the side provides the perfect balance.”

Canada’s food guide plays an important part for students who pack a lunch. Chachula knows this and makes sure her lunch is well balanced.

“I pack a lean-meat sandwich, some fruits and vegetables, and an organic granola bar,” she said. “What helps me pack my lunch is that I follow Canada’s Food Guide.”

The main problem for packing a lunch, Copostosto says, is lack of time for preparation can lead to students constantly buying lunch.

“I find the main reason is time management,” she said. “If students plan out their times accordingly, it will be easier for them to prepare.”

Copostosto says this is a difficult situation for those who buy lunch every day.

“It becomes a habit that is tough to break,” she said. “Once students get into that daily routine of buying lunch every day, it is hard to change.”

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