UNCA community focuses on health and wellness awareness

By Ashika Raval – Staff Writer – araval@unca.edu

UNC Asheville’s Well-A-Bration festivities brought attention to the importance of health and wellness throughout campus.

Day one of Well-A-Bration ended with an evening with Shellie Pfohl, executive director of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. Pfhol manages activities and operations of the council and leads efforts related to first lady Michelle Obama’s national “Let’s Move!” initiative to combat childhood obesity.

Though originally from Durham, Pfhol has lived in Asheville for years.

“It’s good to be home. There are so many awesome things going on in North Carolina, so many innovative projects and leaders in our state,” Pfhol said.

Overall, North Carolina ranks 33rd for healthiest state. Pfhol said she believes starting off teaching children about living a healthy lifestyle will guarantee a healthy future, and the way to teach children and others how to be healthy is through mentoring.

“Obesity rates are double with people who have disabilities and there is a huge need for people to work with these people. We need to be inclusive and make sure we are addressing the needs of all citizens,” Pfhol said.

The children of today are going to be the ones determining the future of health and wellness for tomorrow; therefore, it is necessary to pass on healthy traits and advice. One problem on UNCA’s campus is how often underclassmen events include pizza and ice cream or movie screenings.

“In order to get freshman involved we need leadership and a cultural shift from the older students here, and we need to seek balance for events and not use food as a draw,” said Laurie Stradley, director of state and community collaboration for the N.C. Center for Health and Wellness on campus.

Stradley, originally from Chapel Hill, said she feels good about the overall vibe on campus.

“I like the culture and heightened interest in health. There are lots of open spaces for play, great greenway,” she said.

Even though there is the heightened interest in health, there needs to be a campus-wide investment in health and fitness in order for it to be successful, she said. Stradley points out that we can’t just ban bad food, but we can make sure there are healthy options available. On campus there will be healthy options for meals in certain dining areas and a celebration for raising health and wellness awareness on campus, but there will also be cake and pizza served at club meetings.

“This year when we got the email for the Founders Day celebration we saw that they were providing cake and lemonade and we were very upset. We worked with the organizers to have healthy options also provided and had apples and water also available. Departments need to work together,” Stradley said.

According to Stradley, most students will take the cake and lemonade even if they are health conscious. It’s all about making the healthy option the easiest one.

Laura Gardner, a senior health and wellness promotion student, works as the administrative assistant for the HWP deptartment and also works on several different health and fitness initiatives on and off-campus.

Worksite wellness is a current initiative Gardner is working on bringing not only on campus, but around the state. Worksite wellness encourages employers to provide their employees with a healthy environment that pushes for healthy decisions.

Gardner said when employers have a healthy workforce, they are more productive and take fewer sick days.

“Worksite wellness includes providing employees with free gym memberships, healthy catered meals or even having meetings on a walk. It’s about starting small,” Gardner said.

Employees around the state are now looking at the level of worksite wellness when deciding whether or not to take a job.

Gardner originally was an environmental studies student, but shifted to HWP after taking a nutrition lifestyle course. She saw how certain eating habits can promote health and prevent disease. Gardner says her mom is a professional gardener so she has always been interested in locally grown foods.

“Chartwells, our on campus catering company, uses locally-sourced items, some of which are grown on campus and use healthy cooking techniques,” Gardner said.

Chartwells has signed a new 10-year contract and works with the HWP department in order to make sure there are healthy foods always provided. What many students don’t know is that they follow the 10 percent campaign, which means 10 percent of their foods are locally grown. There are often pictures of a farmer next to the locally grown items in the cafeteria each week. Last week the cafeteria provided locally grown apples.

“Local food is currently a trend in Asheville, but in my opinion it is also an important link for eating real, healthy food, in addressing food access issues in Asheville and in building relationships within our community,” said Emma Hutchens, Rhoades Garden Outreach coordinator for the Student Environmental Center.

The health and wellness department continues to grow on UNCA’s campus, according to Gardner.

“Our health and wellness department is one of the fastest growing departments on campus and stands as pillar for the state and even nation. We are focused on promoting health and wellness, not just fixing problems,” said Gardner.

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