Highly Processed American Food is Taking a Toll on International Students

About a year ago, my family hosted an exchange student from Italy. Her name is Bianca and she was amazing, she stayed with us from March 2017, to June 2017.

Within her time in the United States, Bianca gained 50 pounds, and four weeks after returning to her home country of Italy, Bianca had dropped all of the weight she had gained while staying in The States.

While talking with Bianca, and other international students I found that they often feel American food is highly processed, and doesn’t have a lot of variety. International students would prefer to eat healthier while visiting The States, but that’s not always an option for them.

A lot of times, schools don’t provide options that are healthy or appealing to international students. If a student wishes to buy and make their own food, or eat out, eating healthy is much more expensive than it would be to eat something unhealthy.

Bianca elaborated on this, “The food I could afford was always the unhealthy options, I would only have about $5 and I could order off the cheap menu at McDonald’s, or pay $8 for a healthy salad.”

May, an International student from China agreed with this. “Whenever I go to the Dining Hall, they don’t have many options that taste good, and are healthy, so I always wind up eating pizza, or cheeseburgers.”

Foods from other countries often contain a lot of fresh ingredients, while foods from America contain ingredients that are highly processed, making them harder to digest for people who are not used to these foods.

This can cause some digestive issues, and reportedly many international students have had to visit health care facilities to combat the problems caused by eating food that their bodies aren’t used to.

What can we do about it?

In order to help International Students adjust, and feel more comfortable in the US, there are a few things Schools can do to help!


  • Provide Information


Part of the problem is that International Students might not exactly understand all the differences between American food, and what they’re used to. Universities can provide information on nutrition to these students at orientation, so that they can make more informed decisions.


  • Provide Healthier Options


The cause of many International students’ health problems, are overly unhealthy or over processed foods. By ensuring that dining facilities are using fresh, organic, and healthy ingredients, Universities will be providing healthy options for their students. This will help limit the health problems that international students experience due to food!


  • Provide More Options


A lot of complaints from international students are about the lack of diversity of the food they have access to. If schools could add more diverse food options, it would add variety and increase the experience for international students, and even domestic students! Another option for Colleges is to provide shared cooking facilities for students, so that they can make their own food. This would help because students would have more control over what types of food they consume.


  • Provide Cheaper Options


It is no secret that college is expensive. Many students struggle with money, and it has a huge effect on the types of food they are able to afford and eat. This is true moreover for international students, who deal with exchange rates, and other expenses that other students don’t necessarily incur. If schools could price food a bit cheaper, it would make healthier options more accessible for not only international students, but all students!


  • Recommend Healthy Restaurants Around Town


No matter how good Dining Hall food tastes, or how many options Students have, Dining Halls, and on Campus eateries have limited hours. Students can also grow tired of them if they eat there often. This why, Colleges can partner with local restaurants to help make sure students have healthy options on and off campus.

This is step can be as simple as adding a few restaurants to the School’s guidebook, or giving International Students a list of healthy local restaurants at orientation.  If we want to get creative, Universities could also provide coupons to restaurants they’re partnered with, to help make students aware of affordable and health options that are accessible even when the Dining Halls are closed.

These are just a few things that we can do to help international students feel more at home! What was your favorite suggestion?? Do you have any suggestions of your own?? Leave a comment below!


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