Campus Life

Penn State Food Services lends nutritional guidance, support for THON dancers

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Penn State Dance Marathon is an event that students, faculty, staff and many more look forward to each year. In just a few weeks more than 700 students will take the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center to dance for 46 hours with countless others working behind the scenes to make sure everything runs smoothly.

While staying on one’s feet for 46 hours is nothing compared to what children fighting cancer face, it is still something for which the dancers and committees must prepare. THON advises dancers to cut caffeine, work out frequently, eat a healthier diet low in sugar that includes high-density carbohydrates and maintain a steady sleep schedule.

As a college student, those tasks can be a challenge. However, Penn State Food Services is stepping in to make it a little easier this year. After putting together a committee to examine what had been done in support of THON in the past, several ideas blossomed from the group.

One of those ideas includes labeling certain food and beverage items found in the all-you-care-to-eat dining commons, as well as the campus convenience stores (C-Stores), as “THON Approved.”

“Our Registered Dietitians from the Culinary Support Services office have identified items meeting the criteria outlined by THON,” explained Jim Richard, associate director, Residential Dining at University Park. “These items will be tagged as THON-Approved in the weeks leading up to THON so they will be readily identifiable for the participants.”

The initiative doesn’t stop there. On Sunday after THON, the signage in the C-Stores will change and various items will be labeled as “THON Recovery.” “This will help the dancers coming off the floor after 46 hours, and those coming out of the stands after many hours of cheering, to identify products that will help aid in their recovery from the weekend festivities,” said Richard.

Penn State Food Services has also planned a Carb-A-THON set for Thursday, Feb. 20. This is another initiative based around getting the dancers prepared.

“The students are altering their lifestyle, particularly their diet, leading up to THON,” said Richard. “The Carb-A-THON is to help them carb-up before the big event. In all of our all-you-care-to-eat dining units on campus, there will be a pasta bar highlighting those complex carbs and sauces low in sugar.”

Penn State Food Services’ desire to get involved with THON doesn’t start and end with food. Food Services also wanted to recognize and support its student employees who are involved with the event. To recognize the dancers, 7-foot banners will be displayed in each unit with a picture of each dancer and the name of the group they are representing. But there were still others that Food Services wanted to recognize and so came about an idea for “I THON” buttons.

Richard said they plan to make 200 of them to send out to the various units for anyone who is participating in THON. 

“With these buttons, any guests in the dining commons will know our student employees are participating in THON,” he said.

One final idea the committee brainstormed was for a free goodie box for THON committee members to give to their dancers as a treat. Thanks to an overwhelming response from vendors, Food Services will fill 500 boxes with snacks and treats, and provide them to THON committee members on a first-come, first-served basis free of charge. The boxes will be available at both Good-2-Go in Findlay Commons and The Mix in Pollock Commons THON weekend.

According to Richard, these initiatives are something Penn State Food Services hopes to build upon in the future.

“We’re going to maintain our THON committee, and I’m sure the bar will be raised each year,” he said.

Penn State Food Services is recognizing student employees who are involved in THON. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated February 17, 2014