America is a pizza-hungry nation, and UT is no exception. University dining venues sold a combined total of 257,392 slices of pizza last semester alone — 6.5 slices for each of the University’s approximately 40,000 undergraduate students.
In a study released Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported 13 percent of the U.S. population consumes pizza on any given day — with young people representing the bulk of the consumers.
Arabic sophomore Maggie Rake said she thinks pizza has a major presence on college campuses because it’s inexpensive and easy to share.
“I probably eat pizza two or three times a week — maybe four if I have a club meeting, since it’s such a common food for groups,” Rake said. “Pizza is a social food.”
Rake said, in her mind, pizza is exempt from the nutritional worries that plague many college students.
“I just eat pizza to feel happy. I don’t care about the nutrition,” Rake said. “Sometimes I get a veggie pizza to feel better about myself, but my main concern is just convenience.”
The Division of Housing and Food Service offers whole-grain pizza crust options in the Kinsolving and J2 dining halls for students who want to make healthier substitutions, according to Lindsay Wilson, the division’s registered dietician.
Wilson, who provides guidance on the recipes on-campus eating facilities use, said she understands college students’ fixation on pizza but hopes they will consider ways to make pizza healthier.
“Pizza’s never going to be the healthiest option available, but there are so many alterations possible when making it to make it better for you,” Wilson said. “For example, opting with a whole-grain crust means you’re not getting as much of the dough, carbs and empty calories.”
Last semester, J2 and Kinsolving served a combined total of 144 gluten-free pizzas, and 4,545 whole-grain pizzas.
Wilson said she has no doubt pizza will continue to be a staple in on-campus dining locations, even if there are some nutritional changes.
“Pizza is something I’m sure we’ll probably always have on the menu and will always be popular with students,” Wilson said. “But, from my standpoint, we should try to get a couple more healthy options in regards to it.”
Undeclared freshman Victoria Grefer said pizza has been a steady presence in her life over the course of her transition to college.
“It’s just a common food item,” Grefer said. “I usually don’t think about it when I order [pizza]. I think we all grow up eating it without a second thought.”