Nutrition education is an increasingly common offering in campus recreation. To help generate interest in healthy eating from its student population, the University of Rhode Island rec center created Thirsty Thursday.
“It’s a nutrition education program covering a variety of topics,” said Denise Robbin, the fitness and wellness specialist at the University of Rhode Island. “We also offer free smoothies to people attending. It’s a bi-weekly program, and very much student-led.”
The program is also very interactive, according to Robbin. Over the past five years, student leaders in the program have come up with a variety of games and activities, and students can win prizes and giveaways by participating in Thirsty Thursday.
Aside from the promise of free smoothies, however, the most eye-catching aspect of the program is the name itself. If you’ve spent any time in a college town, you’ve probably heard the term “Thirsty Thursday,” but unless you’re in Kingston, Rhode Island, free smoothies probably aren’t involved.
“The name Thirsty Thursday traditionally references Thursday night partying and whatnot,” said Robbin. “We kind of went with the play on words. We also decided to offer free smoothies to go along with the nutrition information, as a way to entice students to come in and learn some stuff.”
The name and smoothies are the point of attraction for a program with the greater focus on teaching students how to create better eating habits. From those beginnings, the program has taken on a life of its own.
“It started out with strictly nutrition education, but we’re really getting more into health and well-being topics and activities,” said Robbin. “We’re working on our smoothie ingredient choices going hand-in-hand with whatever our wellness theme is for the week.”
According to Robbin, the wellness themes change every two weeks based on campus-wide initiatives. These initiatives are organized and communicated through the rec center’s various on-campus partnerships.
“We do collaborate with Health Services,” explained Robbin. “I get my intern from the nutrition department, so we collaborate with them, too. And we get all of our ingredients from dining services, so we have to be in collaboration and communication with them.”
But free giveaways aside, the point of the collaborations and activity planning is for Thirsty Thursday to give students a rewarding experience in healthy eating. As the rec center’s partnerships and resources grow, so will the impact of Thirsty Thursday.
“We’re always hoping to grow,” said Robbin. “If we were to run out of ingredients, that’s a great problem to have.”