Dining hall takeout expected to undergo major changes as Rutgers pushes for healthier options
After this semester, Bite Night as students know it may become a thing of the past
Bite Night at Rutgers take-out is about to become a lot healthier.
The University has made plans to replace unhealthy food items such as hash browns and chicken nuggets from takeout and implement healthier alternatives, NJ Advanced Media reported.
Fried chicken wings will be replaced by baked ones, and the hot sauces used to season the wings will be replaced by spices and natural seasonings.
The changes to the menu will begin gradually starting this April, and eventually will be complete by the end of the fall semester if all goes as planned.
Dining Services plans to monitor student demand for certain items in order to decide which items will ultimately be removed from the menu, said Executive Director of Dining Services Joseph Charette.
The decision to implement healthier alternatives was made after consultation with a student advisory committee, Charette said.
"We have been talking for almost two years now about the kinds of items that are available on our takeout menus, and that a lot of students feel takeout doesn't have healthy choices," he said.
Charette said Harvest, a healthy-food dining venue on Cook campus, which opened in September 2015, sparked student interest in them asking for healthier alternatives in dining halls.
Over spring break, Dining Services and a group called Forward Food met to discuss healthy food training.
As a result, they will implement healthier food alternatives in Neilson Dining Hall as a test, Charette said.
"For the last 4-5 weeks of the semester, in Neilson Dining Hall in the takeout area, we are going to incorporate some brand new, very healthy, planet-friendly type foods and see if that's going to meet the needs the needs of the students. And if it does, if it does, then we would go forward and try to incorporate some of those items in the other three dining halls," he said.
Charette said every time a student swipes into a dining hall, Dining Services receives a count of how many students show up. Because of this, they are able to keep track of which dining halls are favorable, which can be a good indicator of if students prefer the new healthy options or not.
If the takeout options receive a good reception, some healthy options may eventually move into regular menu inside the dining halls as well, Charette said.
Some changes Neilson takeout will undergo may include chicken burgers, blended patties with mushrooms, and other alternatives, although Charette said the final menu is not completed.
Dining hall changes will also include a smoothie and juice bar stations, along with changes to the cook-to-order station, according to NJ Advanced Media.
According to the article, the menu changes are a part of an initiative called Menus for Change, a national movement to “that works to realize a long-term, practical vision integrating optimal nutrition and public health, environmental stewardship and restoration, and social responsibility concerns within the foodservice industry and the culinary profession,” according to their site.
Pioneered by the Culinary Institute of America and Stanford University, the movement aims to integrate prime nutrition in public menus.
Charette said Rutgers was working with the Culinary Institute of America before Menus for Change was developed, and that Rutgers was a prime candidate to join the movement when they partnered up with Standford.
In order to follow the guidelines set forth by Menus for Change, items such as chicken nuggets will be replaced with a healthier alternative, grilled chicken. Smoked chicken sausage will be replaced with pork sausage on a whole grain English muffin and a new bagel bar will have vegetable cream cheese, according to NJ Advanced Media.
The push for healthier alternatives supposedly came from students, not administration, said University officials.
"They ask a lot of questions, and they are eating smarter, so we have to make more choices available that are not only better for their health but better for the planet,” Charette said in an interview with NJ Advanced Media.
Routine menu changes are based on student feedback, according to NJ Advanced Media. The latest changes to the dining menu were made with the aid of a student advisory board panel.
"(Schools that have implemented these changes) are finding that the reaction by the students has just been outstanding, really, really positive experiences in terms of having people feel like they're eating healthier foods and they're doing more good for the planet so it's a win-win and we're thinking we're onto something here," Charette said.
Chloe Dopico is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in political science and journalism and media studies. She is the associate news editor for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @ChloeDopico for more.