Overview — March 2012
Future Health Starts Now
The push to improve the eating habits of Americans continues. At the end of January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released new standards for K-12 dining — the first update in 15 years.
These changes are part of the overall effort to help raise the next generation of Americans to be leaner and less inclined to choose fatty, salty and sugary foods as they get older. The desired result of the changes is the development of healthy habits that last a lifetime.
While these new standards directly apply solely to feeding children in K-12 dining operations, they definitely have an effect on college and university dining. It won't be too long before these youngsters become your customers and their nourishment will be your responsibility.
Paying attention to their eating habits only makes sense — and it is commendable that many of you already do, as you constantly prepare for this increased desire for healthier choices.
Just as these new regulations are meant to encourage healthy eating among today's kids, you as dining operators also influence your students to eat healthier. For years, the pages of On-Campus Hospitality have reported how colleges and universities have reduced the amount of fat, sodium and calories in the foods they serve. This issue is no exception.
One way that “healthy” has made its way onto campus is through the use of fresh ingredients and freshly prepared items. At the newly renovated Mund Center at Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania, the focus of the dining services update is to bring the food fresh out front, according to Bill Allman, general manager with Metz Culinary Management, the campus foodservice provider.
And the “healthy” items are served, as is the case with many other schools, with a side of education — explaining to the students why certain foods are better for them than others and what benefits they offer. One reason educational aspects were added? Because students asked for them.
At Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, teaching healthier eating habits is not only confined to campus. University Dining Services will use money it received from a grant to launch a healthy dining program not only for its students, but for the local and state community as well.
Hopefully the students you are influencing on your campus now will continue to make healthy choices after they leave school. We also hope that as the current K-12 students who will benefit from these new standards arrive on your campuses next year and in the coming years, they will continue making healthy choices — and you will be more than happy to serve them.