Pork pot stickers and candied bacon waffle sundaes might not be typical at college campuses, but students recently had the chance to sample these unique pork items and more during a one-day “pork takeover” at Penn State’s campus dining locations.

Over the past two years, the Pork Checkoff’s foodservice marketing team has worked with 10 college and university dining services to create customizable programs that focus on increasing pork on the menu.

“The Pork Checkoff provides education and innovative meal solutions, partnering with campus foodservice directors,” said Neel Sahni, foodservice marketing and innovation manager for the Pork Checkoff. “The Penn State takeover shared fun, pork options with students.”

All five of the residential dining halls and retail dining locations participated in the Jan. 31 pork takeover. Unique pork dishes were served in the residential dining halls, with pork pot stickers and deli ham offered in all of the retail dining locations.

“For lunch, we showcased porchetta, maple bacon sticky buns, a half rack of honey lime garlic ribs and bacon cheddar chive muffins,” Sahni said. “Dinner options included Korean pork flat iron with kimchi and candied bacon waffle sundaes.”

He added, “Takeovers allow a campus to experience how students react to new pork menu items. Dining directors can measure how the one-day special items did in comparison to normal pork menu offerings and potentially consider them for a future menu cycle.”

Kurt Kwiatkowski, corporate executive chef at Michigan State, appreciates the pork expertise Sahni shares. Kwiatkowski offers students balanced protein sources, with pork items throughout the day including everything from grilled ham and cheese to a roasted pork belly dish.
 
“Neel is my subject matter expert when it comes to pork,” Kwiatkowski said. “He also has a lot of knowledge about what other schools are doing and is up to date on trends. I get the chance to work with him and infuse that into our menus, with the end result being more variety and higher-quality menu items served to our guests.”
 
In February, Michigan State University offered a Pork Pop-Up, a smaller version of the pork takeover to their students featuring Korean Pork Tacos in their residential dining halls. The Checkoff will work with other campuses later this year.