The Library and Food: Finding a Healthy Balance

by Emily Siess Donnellan

I’ve never shared this before, but during law school I gained 40 pounds. I was already overweight having gained the freshman 15 (and then some) in undergrad. But law school took me in to a different stratosphere of unhealthy that I’m finally, four years later and 70 pounds lost, digging myself out of. Today I wanted to share some ways we as librarians embrace unhealthy foods and how we can help our patrons make better choices

Food at Events

We’ve all witnessed the phenomenon that by the simple act of advertising food at an event more people will show up. It’s tempting to bring donuts, pizza, and other easy and cheap foods to events since they fit within the library budget. But, is this the best thing for us to do? With multiple events happening, students or other patrons could be eating pizza 2 or 3 times a week. A diet high in the kinds of saturated and trans fats found in most fast foods can raise blood cholesterol. Too much fat and sugar in a diet can lead to both obesity and heart disease. This isn’t even going in to the fact that these foods cause fatigue, depression, and headaches.

That’s why one thing we can do when holding an event, even if we’re serving unhealthy food, is to include a healthy option. Get a salad from the pizza place; serve fresh-fruit with donuts. Many of our patrons are on a budget and look at a free meal as a way to save. Let’s help them make good choices by providing healthier foods.


Library Snack Stations

Finals relief snacks are another well-meaning idea that can be linked to unhealthy behavior and food choices. These snacks stations often consist of candy, bags of chips, ramen noodles, and a whole host of other carb-laden goodies. I’ve had students complain that during finals they gain weight solely because their diet consists of whatever is on the snack table. This is another opportunity to introduce different types of snacks. Include almonds, veggies, fruits, whole grain products or even protein shakes. These will keep minds performing at their peak and help students avoid packing on the pounds during a stressful time of the semester.

Mindfulness and Stress Relief

In addition to giving patrons the opportunity to make healthy choices, we could also be targeting mindfulness. ALL-SIS on Monday had online discussion about health and wellness services. Some libraries bring in therapy dogs, offer coloring, meditation, puzzle solving, and other way to decompress. One of our law professors offers yoga throughout the semester. Adding this mindfulness element gives students another tool to avoid turning to food for stress management.


Everyone handles stress differently. Some lose weight, others gain, some people withdraw in to themselves and others rise to the challenge and bloom as leaders. This post is just an idea of some ways law libraries can be more conscious of our food choices. Offering a fresh dish might not seem like a big deal, but to students and patrons struggling with budgets it could be the only fruits or veggies that they eat today.

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