Volume 93, Issue 17

Tuesday, September 28, 1999


Web site does a body good

Choosing to trim media's slim

Web site does a body good

By Clare Elias
Gazette Staff

For all those Western students who thought they had finally escaped mom or dad telling them to clean their plates, think again.

On Sept. 1, Western's housing and food services formed an online nutritional tracking system with the food corporation Chef Point Diner. Students in any of Western's residences can log onto the Chef Point Diner web site to evaluate their nutritional input and wage it against the standards of Health Canada.

The system was developed over the summer in an effort to make students more health conscious. "This is a selling point for Western and it benefits students in helping them change their diet," says Perry Monaco, VP-campus issues for Western's University Students' Council. "This way the first-year students can show their parents how well they're eating," Monaco explains. He added this tracking system requires discipline.

The new web site contains all the menus in the residences along with the meals' calorie count, protein intake, number of carbohydrates and any possible allergens. To use the system, the student simply clicks on the address and can then analyze their food consumption.

Once entering the site, an account is set up by the student establishing their nutrient profile. "All they need to do is record their information such as height, weight and sex. This will be matched against Health Canada's recommended levels for their type and then students can find out, in nutritional terms, where they are and where they should be," explains Deborah Blucher, co-ordinator of Chef Point Diner for Western.

Stephanie Charron, educational services consultant at Health Canada said the Canada Food Guide is a translation of nutritional recommendations into food items. As long as the web site is monitored by a nutritionist who upholds Health Canada standards, Charron said, Chef Point Diner will be beneficial for those students who are not eating properly.

While this system is specifically designed for students in residences, Blucher explains off-campus Western students can use the system by tracking every individual food item.

"[Society] has the technological ability to track our daily intake and if [Chef Point Diner] can make it so that we don't have to weigh through the generic stuff, then we'll be more likely to do it when it's more convenient," Blucher says.

The plan for an online nutritional tracking system was originally conceived by Len Piche, associate professor of home economics at Brescia college.

"Piche was working with the [Industry Liaison] office to develop a nutritional tracking system, but we realized we needed to fully commercialize it for it to work," says Dan Sinai, Industry Liaison officer.

Sinai explained in order to maximize utility and useability of the web site it was necessary to collaborate with Chef Point Diner. "We brought [the proposal for the web site] outside the university in order to get it to a point where it could be employed by a number of users." He added Western negotiated a licence with Chef Point Diner which makes the service free for both students and faculty.

Sinai also said the private nature of the site will lessen any sense of intimidation with regards to weight and will thus generate a high percentage of users.

Piche says it is vital for students at university, especially those away from home for the first time, to pay attention to their nutritional intake. "A student's diet may not be so good and towards the end of the school year, when money is low, the idea of eating in a healthy manner is not as strong," he explains.

The online service will replace the traditional role of the nutritionist, whose services cannot compete with the demands of Western's large population. "The web site is available for 30,000 students who can all transfer their information and get their results," says Frank Miller, general manager for Western's food services.

Miller says food services will wait out the year and surmise the results before pursuing any expansions. He anticipates the service will be widely used by Western students, specifically by athletes.

"Students really care about eating habits, especially when getting ready for exams when energy is needed," he said.

Third-year history student Jason Marley said he has heard about Chef Point Diner's online service, however he does not anticipate using the system. "I really don't count calories," he said.

Students can access the website at www.chefpointdiner.com/western.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999