FAMU’s Fried Chicken Wednesday strikes health concerns

Batch of fried chicken in the residence dining hall.
Photo Submitted by Tenae Taylor.

Let’s be clear: We’re talking about a lot of chicken. At least 1,000 pounds of fried chicken is cooked weekly to serve hungry Rattlers during “Fried Chicken Wednesday” in the residence-dining hall at Florida A&M University.

Ernando Pounsel, a Metz employee who is a residence dining hall cook, says at least 25 cases of fried chicken weighing in at 40 pounds per case is used each Wednesday to serve guests.

“Let me calculate this,” Pounsel began. “Twenty-five cases at 40 pounds, that’s 1,000 pounds and sometimes more is made.

“That’s just the fried chicken, not the baked,” he added.

Fried Chicken Wednesday is a long-standing tradition that resonates with students who attend historically black colleges and universities across the nation. This occasion is not foreign to FAMU.

Several pounds of fried chicken are served out of three different locations on FAMU’s campus each Wednesday along with sides of collard greens, black-eyed peas, mac n’ cheese and cornbread.

A senior philosophy major, Cameron Montgomery appreciates the cultural aspect of the tradition, not the health risks that come with it.

“I do think that it’s unfortunate that we emphasize the eating of meat as if it’s a staple in the black community.” Montgomery said. “I think here in America, we eat chicken, preferably fried chicken, but it is not good for us health-wise.

“The fact that it’s so emphasized every Wednesday —you get baked or you get fried, pick your poison,” he said jokingly.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the suggested serving size of chicken is 3 ounces in a 2,000-calorie diet.

Unlike other locations on campus, the residence-dining hall is buffet-style. In other words, it’s an “all you can eat” dining experience. It is not difficult to eat more than the recommended amount.

A senior English major, Tyonna Kendrick believes the tradition is worth experiencing, if done in moderation.

“I have mixed emotions about Fried Chicken Wednesday,” Kendrick said. “I like it and I don’t like it.

“I guess it depends on which Wednesday I feel like having it,” she added.

Another issue surrounding this ritual is the lack of non-meat food options for students.

A junior psychology major, Autumn Thompson believes Fried Chicken Wednesday helps keep FAMU culture alive. Her only wish is to have more food choices available on campus that accommodates her vegetarian lifestyle.

“When it comes to the dietary needs of students, I think FAMU can do better,” Thompson said. “With me being a vegetarian for three-plus years now, it’s hard here, especially eating in the main dining hall.

“They like to serve us veggie burgers and salads as if that’s all we eat,” she continued. “It would be nice to have some good ‘home-cooked’ vegetarian meals at least once a week so we can feel like we’re catered to.”

Fried Chicken Wednesday is a part of FAMU culture. Despite health concerns, students like Thompson believe the tradition is indispensable to the HBCU experience.