When cities and states banned smoking in public areas, it was lauded as an inconveniently protective measure for the masses. When seatbelt laws are enforced, it’s to save us from our own everyday recklessness.
But when an HBCU decides to preserve the health of its faculty and staff by banning pork from its campus dining program, some media have a “who moved my pork chop” reaction. Such is the case with Paul Quinn College, when president Michael Sorrell earlier this week announced the removal of pork from its menus.
We know there are many negative health consequences of consuming pork (eating pork can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, sodium retention and heart problems, not to mention weight gain and obesity). Therefore, as a part of our continued effort to improve the lives and health of our students, Paul Quinn College and its food service partner Perkins Management have collaborated to create a pork-free cafeteria. From this semester forward PQC will no longer serve dishes containing pork. That applause you hear in the background is the blood pressure of our students, faculty and staff.
Being the leader of a black college in Dallas, TX., there was sure to be some brushback from a culture and economy largely positioned by pork and beef. But in sources that people actually read and care about, like USA Today, it’s largely being embraced as a savvy move to benefit the college’s support base – African-Americans.
On the surface, Sorrell is doing his students and faculty a great service by eliminating one food item that, when consumed in great portions, can lead to heart disease and other maladies that disproportionately effect Black folks. And like restrictions on smoking and enforcement on seat belts, Sorrell’s approach is to not worry about how much or how little one individual may want or choose to eat something that’s bad for them.
If it’s not available, it doesn’t matter.
The bigger picture for this move is Paul Quinn’s near obsession with doing the right things for people, without regard for self-interest or controversy. In just under five years, Sorrell and the Quinn have cut the heart out of the typical elements of black college life – football and soul food.
But in their place, the campus has transformed into a pioneering institution, with advocacy growing around health equity for disadvantaged communities and self-empowerment. Out with the football team, in with an organic farm that has produced 6,000 pounds of food used by the school, sold to local markets and restauranteurs, and donated to needy families.
Out with pork, in with a national discussion on how Black communities can think healthier and live better.
In return, PQC has graced the pages of national newspapers and broadcasts more than most of the HBCUs in the nation combined. Not for controversy over failing students, campus crime, hazing or executive misconduct, but for doing the right thing. While other HBCUs are stuck in their own stubbornness and unwillingness to innovate, Paul Quinn zooms ahead as the model for what Black colleges used to be and still could achieve – a growing model as America’s HBCU.
Better to refrain from eating pig than being pigheaded.