What Role, If Any, Does UWC Play In Ensuring Healthy Living?


by Ivy Tirok, United World College Maastricht
June 14th, 2018



With time, United World College Maastricht feels like a home away from home for many students: a place where we grow, sometimes want to leave but are always assured of the comfort it provides. For residential students, in particular, the campus accommodates majority of our needs including provision of a resting place, working space and sanitation facilities, among others. The school also caters for the dietary needs of a vast number of people who eat in the cafeteria. In spite of the gratitude we allot to the school for providing as comfortable space as possible, it is important to question with how much regard fitness and the nutritious value of the food we consume are treated.
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As we are well aware, the meals provided in the school cafeteria are sourced from Daily Fresh. Often, these meals comprise of highly processed foods rich in carbohydrates and fats. The company strives to provide a variety of food types; however, it falls short when it comes to important micronutrients. For instance, all meals are accompanied by different bread types, yet fruits and vegetables are not taken into account to the same degree. Some may attribute this to the food culture in the region, but, do people make a tradition or does a tradition make people?
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Presently, obesity has ceased to be a rich man’s problem. Instead, it has evolved into a disease that is gradually eating away from the lifespan of both youth and adults regardless of their social status. This is a direct result of poor food choices and high levels of inactivity. Within our campus, the effects of these actions are evident; manifested in laxity in class, quick loss of attention, easy fracturing of bones, missing of menstrual cycles among the female population, and headaches leading to one too many unnecessary visits to the nurse’s office. It is true that correlation is not causation, however, we must leave room to explore the idea that the food we eat, and our level of physical exertion have a direct impact on our wellbeing.
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Moreover, biologically, our bodies crave physical activity although the conscious mind may dislike it at times. As a result, the nervous system releases hormones endorphins, serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine which are responsible for our happiness and make exercise more enjoyable. Thus, aside from keeping us fit, physical activity helps to ensure that our spirits remain uplifted.
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In view of this, the logical solution would be to encourage members of our community to maintain healthier living standards. Unfortunately, it is not that straightforward. Pundits claim that the International Baccalaureate ranks as the most rigorous high school program with benefits that include preparing students to most effectively deal with the outside world. In spite of this, other school systems have been more successful with regard to students’ physical activity by setting aside sessions within the school day for students to sweat. As for the IB, aside from the required ‘Activity’ in the CAS program, students lack other opportunities to work out, save for the few who go the extra mile. In our campus, in particular, the level of investment in fitness plans and facilities is clearly inadequate. In the next school budget, I propose that a greater percentage should be set aside specifically for fitness facilities such as a fully functional gym or a swimming pool, if space allows.
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As for food choices, having three types of croissants: plain, chocolate-filled, cheese-coated, is not variety but largesse. Deliberate decisions which encompass the health of the community need to be made by the food committee with regard to the food that is provided by Daily Fresh. In addition, more awareness should be created on healthy living: it must not be assumed that this is a no-brainer for all members of the community. Education on this important concept may further be transferred by the UWC members to their local communities, thereby creating increased social benefits and ultimately leading to a healthier planet. By the same token, the need to serve only that which is necessary should be emphasized to avoid food wastage. Forgive my cliché, but people are dying of hunger around the world. In this way, we can reduce our ecological footprint and rightfully claim the title, “eco-school”.
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Each day, we explore new things to increase our knowledge of the world, be it through reading or venturing into different places. We constantly feed our brain with beneficial information so that we may not become obsolete. Accordingly, we must not forget the bodies in which our brains reside. We must properly care for them so as to ensure that we function at our optimum capacity.

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