The plates, made of melamine, are mixed in with the university’s standard ceramic plates, with about 1,300 circulating through three dining halls that serve 12,000 meals per day. During one recent lunch hour, some students piled their plates with veggies, while others reached for grilled cheese, pasta and sausage. Freshman Mike Carbone covered the fruit and vegetable portions of his plate with fried onion rings and the protein section with grilled chicken. There was a pile of chicken nuggets in the middle, and blobs of ketchup and mustard in the grain section.
“It’s not a very nutritious lunch, but I’m drinking water,” he said.
Carbone, 19, said he does try to eat healthily but said he pays no attention to the plates.
Sophomore Nicole Grote said while she doesn’t match her food to the plates, they’ve made her more aware of portion sizes, and in general, she thinks the university is taking the right approach.
“I think it makes sense,” said Grote, who stays away from both sugar and dairy products. “People should eat healthy.”
Peter Heislein, a junior, said the plates have prompted him to choose an apple instead of french fries on occasion, but they have not been a major influence on his diet. And his main reason for preferring the plates had more to do with how they emerge from the dishwasher than the healthy message.
“I wish it was better than this, but I like them because they’re not searing hot like the ceramic plates,” he said. “It does make a little (health) conscious, but not a ton.”
Dining hall manager David Hill said he has seen some students taking the plates seriously, while others ignore them. It’s all part of the challenge of keeping up with students’ changing tastes while also promoting health, he said.