A large poster hanging next to Holloway Common’s Euro-Line food station pops with color and bold fonts, demanding attention to a culinary revolution. “Cut the salt;” “Limit potatoes;” “Reduce added sugar;” are just some of the recommendations from the new initiative, Menus of Change, which challenges chefs everywhere to reimagine what they serve in an effort to promote healthy sustainable foods.
On college campuses, the goal is to instill these changes in students now so they will become habits. It is predicted that doing so will alter consumer buying patterns as well, creating a demand for local, fresh, seasonal food. The initiative’s principles address nutrition, food-sourcing, cultural diversity and sustainability.
UNH has rolled out several of the recommendations already, adding four varieties of whole grains to the salad bars and offering less fried food. November saw a diversity of fruit-infused water stations, and December has brought an influx of fresh herbs and spices, new culinary techniques and smaller portions to lower sodium levels as chefs aim to “Cut the salt.”
“UNH Dining has always worked to provide the healthiest choices possible,” says Jon Plodzik, director of dining hall operations. “We saw this initiative as a compilation of a number of efforts we were already working on. Our goal is to help UNH become the healthiest campus in the nation by 2020.”
Other recent changes in UNH dining halls include the addition of a dim sum bar at Philbrook, spring rolls, more vegetable entrees, more flavored waters, prepared salads, healthy fruit dessert cups, beef-and-mushroom-blended burgers, less bacon and fewer or no fried foods.
“The list is long and forever expanding,” Plodzik says.
UNH was one of 37 schools invited to join Menus of Change, and dining staff serve on the initiatives' nationwide working groups for education, culinary and executive leadership. UNH’s commitment is expected to continue until the principles are fully adopted and practiced.
Menus of Change was created by The Culinary Institute of America and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to create business-friendly solutions to the problems of increasing levels of obesity, diabetes and world population and healthcare costs while Earth’s resources decline.
"Menus of Change is about bringing the values of sustainability, which incorporates health of people and the planet, into campus dining, and these values align with our deep commitments and community identity of sustainability,” says Tom Kelly, UNH’s chief sustainability officer. “UNH Dining is a valued partner and a respected leader in its work on sustainability, and its embracing of Menus of Change is yet another example of its leadership."
UNH also teamed with Guiding Stars® Licensing Corporation to provide a rating system for food based on its nutritional value, as well as Partnership for a Healthier America on the Healthier Campus Initiative to establish nutrition, physical activity and programming guidelines. Every dining hall also has “The Wildcats Plates,” special dishware that break down a healthy meal into sections on the dish and give recommendations as to what to eat and drink.