Popular dining apps promote unhealthy eating habits

Alex Arevalo

The ‘Freshman 15’ expression, dubbed for the amount of weight a student is projected to put on during their first time away at university, is all too familiar. Nearly one in four freshmen gain an average of 10 pounds during their first semester at college. The stigma that comes with that is almost tangible, and the fear is all too real. 

Why, then, are apps that promote unhealthy eating habits on the rise? 

Data from a recent infographic suggests it may have to do with the fact that 40 percent of people would like to pay for quick-service meals via their mobile devices, and restaurant entrepreneurs are taking notice.

The problem is that university students, many of whom are independent for the first time in their lives, comprise one of the largest marketing groups these services are directed to. Companies are taking advantage of an indulgent time in students’ lives to progress this new type of business.

Most notably for UT students, Hooked and Favor are the go-to food purchasing apps.

Hooked appeals to student who want to save money, whereas food delivery apps, such as Favor advertise restaurant meals without having to eat out.

Hooked marketing Director Kristian Zak attributes the app’s success to understanding their target demographic.

“We knew what students want, which is to make life easier and save some cash,” Zak said. 

But Zak also acknowledges the health implications that his app, and others like it, may carry.

“At the end of the day, cooking at home is probably the best way to save money and stay healthy,” he said. “We want to start getting healthy content.”

Because college students are not always the conscious consumers they should be, companies exploit how easily persuaded they are. Tina Heileman, public relations manager for Favor, said in an email that college students tend to be early adopters to these types of services.

It may be the appeal of not having to actually go out for good food, or it may be the prospect of saving a few extra bucks. Whatever the draw, students perpetuate the contradiction of not wanting to put on extra pounds but submit to being a large source of revenue for apps that connect them to unhealthy eating. It’s up to the individual to be a conscious consumer and sift through services that can compromise their health and well-being.

If this trend continues, an education may not be the only thing you gain in college.

Arevalo is a journalism freshman from McAllen. Follow her on Twitter @alexparevalo3.