CHULAK: Backlash in response to menu changes makes no sense


Opinions Column: The Hard Truth


There’s recently been a lot of outrage at Rutgers over the removal of chicken nuggets from takeout. Starting this week, Rutgers Dining Services will begin to phase out unhealthy foods like chicken nuggets, hash browns and other processed foods. Instead, we will be presented with healthier, plant-based options that will give Rutgers takeout a much-needed facelift. The change will initially take effect at Neilson Dining Hall, but will hopefully expand to Brower, Livingston and Busch by the end of the fall semester. Last week I wrote about how veganism is the future and why it is important for people to make this change. Dining Services is transitioning toward a healthier and more sustainable menu that not only benefits the health of students on campus but will also reduce the negative impact the University has on the environment. Rutgers will be participating in a movement called Menus of Change, which is led by Stanford University and the Culinary Institute of America. The new menu will have a greater focus on fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and beans, and will seek to significantly reduce the amount of red meat and processed foods in the dining halls. The fact that Rutgers is making these changes is a huge deal that should not go unnoticed by the student body.

The first issue that needs to be addressed is the chicken nuggets. To start off, Rutgers is not removing chicken nuggets from the dining hall. They will still be available in takeout and the dining halls, but the newer version will be baked or grilled instead of fried. If you have lived on campus throughout your time at Rutgers, you know what it is like to feel a grumble in your stomach at 11:30 p.m. only to realize your only option is takeout. Reluctantly, you order the common options like wings, pizza and burgers, but end up feeling worse than you did before. Most students realize they shouldn’t be eating greasy, processed food late at night, but when it is the only option, they take it, because nobody should have to eat sleep for dinner. Students constantly complain about how greasy “Bite Knight” is at Brower and cite that as the reason they don’t have a meal plan, but when they are presented with a healthier alternative they still complain. Don’t worry though, you will still be able to enjoy fried chicken nuggets, but now you may have to go McDonalds instead of the dining hall. That option will always be open to you, although I don’t recommend it. What I do recommend, however, is that you expand your pallet and try new foods. We should start eating the foods that our body needs like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Trust me you don’t want to be the one ordering chicken tenders and fries, while everyone else is ordering sophisticated menu items.

Quite frankly, I’m shocked by the amount of backlash Dining Services is getting for making this transition. There are no negative aspects to this new menu. Students will have access to healthier, tastier food that is made from fresh ingredients instead of processed. Before the new menu announcement, I have not heard one good thing said about the chicken nuggets at Brower, but now suddenly, they are the greatest thing that Rutgers has ever had. Give me a break. Instead of chicken nuggets, you may have to settle for grilled chicken breast with fresh mozzarella, roasted pepper coulis, roasted cherry tomatoes and baby arugula on a seven-grain boule. Instead of french fries, you may have to settle for roasted Carolina yams with sweet Vidalia onions, rainbow chard and roasted paprika. I don’t know about other Rutgers students, but that does not sound like a trade-off to me, but what do I know? I’m just a vegan.

It seems that the only reason there is so much criticism is that students feel as if they are being forced to eat healthier. While it may seem that their choices are being taken away, it is actually the students who have the power to influence what is served in the dining halls. From my experience as someone with a restricted diet, the managers at the dining halls have been nothing but accommodating and helpful. If you have any issues with any foods at the dining hall, you need to speak to someone so they can address them. Complaining does nothing and boycotting takeout will do even less. The changes made to the menus were based off suggestions made by students, not administrators, in the Student Dining Hall Advisory Committee. I applaud the changes being made in the dining halls and I look forward to enjoying healthy, sustainable plant-based meals at Neilson for the rest of the semester and hopefully beyond that!

Daniel Chulak is a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior majoring in environmental and business economics with a minor in German. His column, "The Hard Truth," runs on alternate Tuesdays.


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Dan Chulak

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