Providing healthy options for diners while making healthy, sustainable operational decisions isn’t an easy challenge to meet. It’s a balance of customer needs and appetites with good industry practices. Comparing MDining’s protocols to the suggested “Principles of Healthy, Sustainable Menus” outlined in the “Menus of Change Annual Report”, illustrates how close MDining leadership have come to reaching that balance.
Now in its sixth year, Menus of Change is a ground-breaking initiative from The Culinary Institute of America and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health that works to realize a long-term, practical vision integrating optimal nutrition and public health, environmental stewardship and restoration, and social responsibility concerns within the foodservice industry and the culinary profession.
Here’s a look at a few of the principles suggested in the report, and how MDining stacks up:
- Be transparent about sourcing -- the report suggest providing consumers with abundant information about food production, sourcing, nutrition, and environmental and animal impact. MDining’s practice is to include vendor bios at food stations, preparing food to order so it is fresh and can be modified, and listing nutritional and allergen info with all meals.
- Buy fresh and seasonal, local and global -- the report states that in addition to serving better flavors, peak-of-season food can “play an important role in building community.” And community building helps educate consumers, to make healthier choices and be better stewards of the earth. MDining meets this on many levels. From working with local farmers who adhere to sustainable practices, to buying minimally processed foods, to offering cultural dishes to celebrate a diversity in meals.
- Reduce portion size, reduce sugar, reduce salt -- MDining in practice buys more whole food products, reduces the use of refined sugars and salts in recipes, offers smaller portions for less waste, and searches out greater variety and selections. If the small plates are not enough to ease the student’s hunger, students can return for more if needed. Made-to-order foods such as omelets, stir-fries, sandwiches, let the student choose exactly what they want so nothing goes to waste.
- Less red meat, more fish and seafood -- MDining purposefully focuses recipes to offer more fish and seafood options, which reduces the greenhouse gases and provides healthy protein options for students. Newly popular health items -- including quinoa -- have become the focus of the plate instead of proteins. In addition, MDining partners with Sea To Table, a company that connects chefs with local fishermen from small-scale sustainable wild fisheries -- first Big Ten university to gain Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Chain of Custody certification. MSC is a global, non-profit organization that promotes sustainable fisheries and responsible fishing practices worldwide.
- Grow everyday options -- The university dining staff actively seeks out new and delicious menus, expanding vegan and vegetarian selections. The halls also have daily sushi options.