It seems to be the staple of dorm life at Temple University. When picking a meal plan, freshmen almost always include it in their choice. It’s a nightly ritual for those in the know. It’s a place to see and be seen, the proverbial Mecca of all things unrelated to studying. Or perhaps it is the fuel behind late night cram sessions.
It’s fourth meal.
But is fourth meal aiding in the corruption, and quite possibly destruction, of students’ diets across campus?
Fourth meal in the Louis J. Esposito Dining Hall on the ground floor of Johnson and Hardwick halls consists mainly of french fries, mozzarella sticks and chicken tenders – chicken tenders that are so popular they are limited to three per student, according to dining services.
But this is an era when the low-carb craze is the panacea for rising jean sizes. Low-carb food became a necessity because more than 30 percent of teens are overweight and about 15 percent are obese, according to the American Obesity Association. So who’s deciding to proffer a fry at 10 at night?
The answer: You are.
The meal plan at Temple offers diners an extra meal choice in which they can have the opportunity to eat up to four meals a day, for an added fee. That is, breakfast, lunch, dinner and the coveted fourth meal. Though it became a hang out, the fourth meal doesn’t offer enough variety to be called a “balanced meal.”
“We recognize that there are some improvements to bring freshness to fourth meal,” said Chandler Gotschlich, director of marketing for Sodexho Campus Services, noting that the wrap station and deli sections often remain open.
However, if students find it difficult to grab a healthy snack late at night, the onus should be transferred to their peers. It is the students who decided what is served there in the first place.
According to Gotschlich, all of the menus at the Louis J. Esposito Dining Court are determined through a series of “Chef’s Round Tables.” At these events, eight or nine students are served a five-course meal prepared by Jack Gudin, a traveling chef. The relaxed atmosphere provides dining services with a candid look into the ideal wants of the students, and also lets students see that Temple meals can be culinary events.
“These dinners allow us to delve a little deeper into where their wants are,” Gotschlich said.
Along the same lines as the “Chef’s Round Tables” are the Food Service Committee meetings, also comprised completely of students. These meetings, in comparison to the “Chef’s Round Tables” are made up of 20 to 40 students. They are served a meal and are encouraged to speak about the likes and dislikes of the meal and about the dining services.
According to Gotschlich, the students present at the forums have the opportunity to vent, complain and compliment the service. They can also be the impetus to change.
The additions of Cinnabon, Mrs. Crepes and the Yum Dinners – gourmet dinners once a semester – are all a result of Food Service Committee meetings. Yet the input may be biased.
The students present at these committee meetings are all recruits from the campus dorms. The respective RA from each dorm is notified when the next meeting will be, and it is in their hands to promote the meeting. For students living off campus, which are juniors, seniors and a large portion of sophomores, their meals are decided largely by the freshmen.
Gotschlich said that’s not the intention. All students are encouraged to sign up and participate.
This year Temple dining services also offers students with a meal plan another option – fourth meal at the Student Center. But once again, convenience defeats calorie-counting.
The only vendors available during fourth meal are the outside stations – Taco Bell, Burger King, Cinnabon, Red Sauce and Spudz.
The choices this time come down to a matter of logistics.
According to Gotschlich, it is not feasible to keep the entire Valaida S. Walker food court open for the duration of dinner and fourth meal. It would total seven and a half hours of continual service.
But students who feel their options are limited when it comes to dining late on campus have the power to change it. Temple’s meals are not the by-product of intense planning on the behalf of a dining corporation, but rather the reflection of what the students are pining.
“The decision about what we serve doesn’t come from some random group of Sodexho managers sitting around a table,” Gotschlich said. “If we were to take the chicken tenders and fries off [fourth meal] to do something more healthy, the students wouldn’t respond.”
Perhaps the food options present at fourth meal, as well as other mealtimes, are indicative of a trend larger than the control of Sodexho Campus Services. Temple is only giving students what they say they want to eat.
Sara Getz can be reached at Sgetz418@temple.edu.