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Live Free (and Eat Mozzarella Sticks) or Die

College students are a passionate bunch. This demographic has the knowledge, resources, and capabilities to make real changes in this world—and many do! However, some use their talents for, um, less noteworthy causes. Like rallying to keep fried cheese sticks on the dining hall menu.

Students at Washington University in St. Louis circulated a petition this fall, when they returned to campus to find their “beloved” mozzarella sticks removed from dining services. This change came after the campus joined on with the Partnership for a Healthier America—an initiative aimed at reducing childhood obesity by developing strategies to help youth make better lifestyle choices. Wash U’s commitment with this partnership spans three main areas: food and nutrition, physical activity and movement, and programming, according to Student Life (The independent newspaper of Washington University). One of the food and nutrition agreements is having the number of fried foods served at each dining location equal to or less than the number of serving stations.

Connie Diekman MAEd, RD, CSSD, LD, FADA, the school dietitian and nutrition director, has unfortunately taken a lot of heat for the disappearance of this calorie-packed snack. As sheexplains to Spoon Univeristy, “This is a commitment that we made because the university’s goals are that we graduate bright, healthy young adults. So, the commitment was to provide an environment that promotes health. With that said, there are a plethora of choices still available that don’t necessarily fit into that.” As a dietitian myself, I sympathize with Diekman. Oftentimes health professionals are made out to be the “bad guys” in these situations, when really the school made a choice to create a healthier environment for students. Is that really so bad?

Sales data were the basis for removing mozzarella sticks from Bear’s Den (the only dining hall where they were offered), with records showing they were one of the two least popular student snacks. In other words, this “beloved” snack doesn’t seem to be so adored. That, or, this was a classic case of “you don’t know what you got till it’s gone.” All jokes aside, it seems the school administration made a responsible choice based on the health and past preferences of students. Don’t get me wrong, I love mozz sticks as much as the next gal—actually, probably more than the next gal—but they are by no means something to eat often. Mozzarella sticks are a deep-fried, delicious treat, not something to be scarfed down daily between classes or an added item on your list of late night activities.

Though the petition was not to (officially) credit for the decision, mozz sticks recently started making weekly appearances at Bear’s Den, which Diekman explains was the plan from the start. Campus Executive Chef Patrick McElroy supports this notion of mozz-in-moderation, telling Student Life, “[S]tuff like the cheese sticks didn’t go away. We actually have them on certain nights, but we aren’t promoting it heavily because it’s counterproductive to the thing we are trying to accomplish.”

Culture: the word on cheese, as you might’ve guessed, stands tall in the pro-cheese camp. But deep-frying it for every day of the week does not a healthy (and long-lived) cheese eater make…

Feature Photo Credit: “Homemade Fried Mozzarella Sticks with Marinara Sauce” by Brent Hofacker | Shutterstock

Marissa Donovan

Marissa Donovan is a former upstate New York girl living in a cheese-centric world. Although cheese is her day one, she doesn’t discriminate, as she adores all food. Similar to what Beyoncé advises, she likes food so much she put a degree on it—she’s a registered dietitian and master’s student in the nutrition communication program at Tufts. When she’s not filling her head with food info, she’s filling her belly with food and, as always, trying to bring up cheese in casual conversation.