Art by Madeline Duvall
Before moving into the dorms, Pepperdine requires all first-year students to purchase a meal plan, which currently ranges from $1,865 to $4,075 per semester.
With the three percent increase in housing rates, the meal plan for this academic year adds up to $3,730 to $8,150. Meanwhile, cooking meals could instead cost half those amounts or even less with mindful budgeting.
Unfortunately, the lack of kitchens in the first-year dorms makes this economizing impossible. Additionally, the requirement for students to choose a meal plan can make cooking look like an insignificant life skill, according to National Center for Biotechnology Information.
To remedy this, Pepperdine should renovate its first-year dorms so students can have access to a large communal kitchen. Learning how to cook also offers various health benefits, such as balanced eating.
The infamous “freshman 15” expression refers to the belief that many university students gain an average of 15 pounds during their first year. There are numerous explanations for this gain, with the main reasons being eating too much junk food and choosing unbalanced or unhealthy options in campus dining halls.
Cooking can help first-year students maintain a healthy weight throughout the year as it often allows people to focus on every aspect of the eating process.
Not only can students control their portion sizes and account for their personal seasoning preferences, but they can also start making more mindful choices concerning food through cooking, according to the Huffington Post. Specifically, students are likely to become aware of the quality of the ingredients in their meals as well as the nutritional benefits.
Granting first-year students access to kitchens can help them transition from mindless to mindful eating habits — such as eating only to satisfy hunger instead of boredom, or eating more nutritionally healthy and balanced meals and snacks.
Although exercise and dieting can get rid of the “freshman 15,” the University can help prevent this phenomenon from even occurring by allowing students to practice healthy cooking and eating in their own kitchens.
Providing kitchens for first-year students can also reduce feelings of homesickness, especially for international students who might have trouble assimilating into American food culture.
A study published by ICEF Monitor describes how many international students often experience food insecurity and feel estranged due to a lack of access to familiar and culturally appropriate foods.
Cooking can help ward off these feelings of homesickness as many supermarkets sell international ingredients and foods students can use to prepare their homeland cuisine, according to the Guardian.
Additionally, cooking and sharing meals in a first-year dorm can help foster community among students. About 75% of first-year college students suffer from loneliness after entering college and 63% frequently feel depressed, according to Accredited Schools Online.
Cooking and sharing a meal with friends and roommates in the kitchen can be a fun social activity that may help ease feelings of loneliness among first-years. Students are much more likely to find enjoyment in preparing brunch with friends than simply walking to the Caf and presenting a card.
“I definitely enjoyed cooking with my friends at the [upperclassmen] dorms more than just going to the Waves Cafe,” said junior Public Relations major Heidi Han. “We had an unlimited choice of foods we can make and it was always a fun occasion with my friends. It gave us all time to relax and have fun and just take our minds off of our busy schedules for a bit.”
Furthermore, cooking can help with relaxation and depression as the motions of the activity are relatively meditative, according to the Huffington Post. The act of cooking involves creating something tangible, and sharing it with others offers individuals a sense of accomplishment, according to Psychology Today.
It’s time for the University to consider “modernizing” the first-year dorms by providing the houses with kitchens in the common area of the dorms in order to keep up with neighboring universities and promote mindful eating habits among students.
It hardly seems like an illogical proposal considering how cooking can improve the quality of students’ lives and the vitality of their communities — both of which Pepperdine aims to accomplish.
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Email Alice Han: firstname.lastname@example.org