In February, the world was introduced to the Bag of Chips, a new food product from Cornell University. The Bag of Chips is exactly as its name implies: a bag filled with fat and salty chips. The bag is then sealed shut, creating a snack that is high in calories and fat but low in actual nutrition.
With the Bag of Chips’ big unveiling, the Internet was immediately abuzz with memes, jokes, and sarcastic takes on this new and controversial snack. Most people know that chips are high in fat and calories, but few realize that many snack foods have been engineered in this way. So, how did we get here? Let’s take a moment and explore the Scandalous History of Cornell University’s “Bag of Chips.”
How Did the Bag of Chips Come to Be?
Cornell University was facing some financial difficulty in the late 1950’s. With Cornell experiencing a downturn in donations, they needed to find a way to increase their income. To attract more students and donors, they decided to create an all-you-can-eat campaign, where people could eat as much food as they wanted for a certain price. This campaign would help them reach a target of 100 million dollars by the end of the year.
One of the tactics that helped Cornell University reach its goal was creating new and exciting snacks for students and donors to enjoy during their meals. One snack that was created during this time was the Bag of Chips. The bag is made from rice paper and filled with salt and fat chips. These chips are then sealed shut, creating a tasty yet unhealthy snack for students on a budget.
After the Bag of Chips was introduced, it quickly became popular on campus, with many posting photographs on social media when eating it. Today, the Bag of Chips is still available at Cornell University dining halls at $1 per bag or $5 per day.
A Recipe For Disaster
Cornell University has more than one food product in its repertoire. But, the Bag of Chips is not the first and not likely to be the last. In fact, the university has been perfecting and creating junk food for decades.
Cornell University was founded by Ezra Cornell as a land grant college in 1865. The institution quickly developed into a large agricultural research center, focusing on animal husbandry, plant breeding, and food science. One of Cornell’s most famous inventions is Jell-O: a gelatin dessert that is easily moldable for all sorts of shapes and uses.
The first “junk food” was invented in 1906 by William Horlick. He created a new flavored malt syrup called malted milk balls, which were then covered with chocolate or other toppings to create different flavors. By 1909, Horlick had created his first packaged candy bar: A Malt-B-Tat® Bar—the predecessor to Oreos®—which he sold at 150 stores across America.
In 1917, Cornell experimented with mixing butterfat with cocoa powder to create chocolate cakes that were high in both calories and fat content because early refrigerators were very limited in how much butter they could hold before melting it down into liquid form at room temperature (which would cause bacteria).
Cornell Goes to College Foodservice
Cornell University’s Bag of Chips makes headlines in the college foodservice world as an innovative snack that has been engineered to be high in fat and calories. This was not always the case. In the 1950s, Cornell University foodservices implemented a plan called “The Big Three.” The Big Three consisted of three food groups that would be served at all meals: bread, milk, and meat. These three food groups are now considered staples on most college campuses, but they are also very high in calories and fat.
This is where things start to get interesting. Around 2007-2008, Cornell began to introduce new products into their college foodservice menus. One of these new products was a chip called “Sci-Fi,” which was made up of saltine crackers encased in chocolate. You might wonder why this is controversial? Well it turns out that since 2005 there has been a law on the books stating that no grocery store may sell foods with less than 5 percent real fruit or vegetables.
The interesting thing about the Sci-Fi Chip is that only 3 percent of its ingredients are real fruits or vegetables; it’s 97 percent fat and sugar! This item made headlines for being one of the first major processed snacks to be pulled from shelves due to its low nutritional value.
We’re not even done yet! The problems don’t stop here because by 2010-2011, Cornell had introduced another product onto their menu: “Chips Ahoy!” Chips Ahoy! is a
The Bag of Chips Gets Its Name
Cornell University’s Bag of Chips is actually a spin on an old chip bag made by the food brand Frito Lay in 1949. They created them for their mix-in chips, which contained potato chips, onions, and cheese. The Bag of Chips got its name from the idea that you could use the chips as a “bag” for your other favorite foods, such as nuts.
The Bag of Chips was inspired by Cornell’s own history with the snack food industry and with this new product from Cornell University, it seemed like they were taking a shot at Frito Lay. Despite the success of the product, it seems like people are still skeptical of this flavor being added to the list.
Artificial Flavors and Preservatives
The first reason why there are high levels of fat, salt, and calories in foods like the Bag of Chips is artificial flavors and preservatives. Artificial flavors and preservatives have been added to products for years because they make food taste better. This is what makes processed foods more appealing to consumers.
In recent years, there has been an increased focus on how artificial flavors and presitives affect people’s health negatively. There also a growing number of studies that confirm that artificial flavors and preservatives are linked to obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, autism, allergies, autoimmune disorders, hyperactivity in children; as well as brain dysfunction (1).
Cornell’s Bag of Chips Is Scandalous, But Is It Healthy?
Many people are quick to dismiss the Bag of Chips on the basis of its low nutritional value, but this isn’t actually true. The Bag of Chips is 30% less sugar than most chips, which makes it a better choice for diabetics or anyone with a sweet tooth. It also has only 10 calories per serving, so it’s not like it’s going to rack up your caloric intake by any means. However, that still leaves us with an unbalanced, unhealthy snack.
There are many other ways that Cornell University could have marketed the product without resorting to such a scandalous tactics as creating a bag of chips out of fat and salty pieces of fried dough. The company could have made the product in healthy ingredients like fruits and vegetables to make it more appealing to consumers who may be trying to make better choices in their diet. This would have ensured that they got more sales without resorting to gimmicks that promote unhealthy eating habits amongst its target audience.
END OF SUMMER 2017 UPDATE: With Summer Over, Does the Bag of Chips Hold Up?
In the end, perhaps it’s best to have your own opinion on whether you think the Bag of Chips is worth it. The Cornell University website provides a breakdown of calories and nutrition for their Bag of Chips, so you can make an informed decision.
^END OF SUMMER 2017 UPDATEWATER COOLER UPDATE: Will the Bag of Chips Ever Arrive at Your Doorstep?
If you’re like me, you’ve been waiting for the Bag of Chips with bated breath. Indeed, Cornell University has promised that the Bag of Chips will be on grocery store shelves this summer. But how?
First off, it is important to note that the Bag of Chips is not a new snack in and of itself. The product is merely a marketing tactic used by Cornell to put an innovative spin on a classic product. In other words, without the marketing gimmick, there would be no way to make these chips seem more appealing than usual.
In addition to that point, it’s clear that as soon as its first batch was sold out, Cornell was back at work working on future batches. So if you’re still holding out hope for your own bag of chips from Cornell University this summer, don’t get too cocky just yet!
In my opinion, I think the Bag of Chips will sell well over time because people love novelty treats and few things are so novel as a snack-food made up entirely of fat and salt (and then sealed shut).
^ENDEND OF SUMMER 2017 UPDATEBATTERY DETAIL: How Long Will the Bag of Chips Stay Fresh?
The Bag of Chips is meant to be consumed in a short amount of time, so it’s not ideal if you’re planning to take it on your road trip. The bag itself will stay fresh for about two hours and the chips inside will be good for up to four hours.
The scandalous history of the bag of chips.
^ENDEND OF SUMMER 2017 UPDATEFINAL REVIEW: Does the Bag of Chips Still Hold Up?
As of September 7, 2017, the Bag of Chips has been discontinued. Cornell University has also issued a statement to their students and faculty members which states that they are not in production of the product as it was deemed unfit for consumption due to its high fat content, but will continue to provide a “Bag of Chips” on an as-needed basis.
The Bag of Chips was released amid much controversy, with many consumers claiming that it is not healthy for children and adults alike. The product does have some nutritional value (though it is negligible compared to other, more nutritional snack options around), but the true controversy lies in its caloric content. While one bag does have 450 calories (which can be compared next to other snacks like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or Coca-Cola), a single serving is only 12 chips. One serving may satisfy your hunger for a short time, but this product is not meant to be one you eat every day or even every week–and if you’re going to consume any type of fatty food regularly, make sure you are getting enough protein and fiber! This issue leads us back to our original question: Does the Bag of Chips still hold up? The answer is no – especially now that Cornell University has stopped producing them.