People Encouraged to "Eat Real" on Food Day - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

People Encouraged to "Eat Real" on Food Day

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MISSOULA -

October 24 is Food Day -- a nationwide celebration of healthy, affordable and sustainable food.

The goal of Food Day is to encourage people to "eat real" by cutting back on sugar, salt and fat in their diets.

National studies show the typical American diet can lead to obesity, diabetes and heart disease, costing American more than $150 billion per year.

One study even shows 1 in 6 people between the ages of 2 and 19 is obese.

At the University of Montana, dining services prepared a special Food Day menu, offering an array of healthy food options.

However, eating well can still be tricky in a college setting.

"Grilled cheese, pizza, chicken strips… those are always going to be popular food items," said Director of Sustainability and Food Procurement at the University of Montana, Ian Finch.

Finch said over time, they've found some middle ground.

UM purchases locally-raised chicken, and they now make their pizza dough by hand, using local wheat flour.

"So, we can change those little things and make that item healthier," Finch said.

Finch said these efforts are all part of the Farm to College program, which has brought Montana-grown or raised foods to campus for the past 10 years.

Finch said, "The food that we serve -- the fresh fruits and vegetables -- are harvested and then prepared and served within 48 hours."

Finch said UM spends about $812,000 -- or 24% of their yearly budget -- on local milk, eggs, beef, safflower oil, fruits and vegetables.

"You know, once you start a local food purchasing program, it gets out into the community and producers start coming to you."

Finch said he plans to do a study on how often students actually choose healthy food items in the campus dining hall.

He said for now, they list a food item's ingredients and where they're from.

"So, there's all this information that we provide simultaneously to just feeding people, that probably does impact their behavior," Finch said.

UM Dining Services officials said they purchase food from 128 Montana food producers.

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