Goldies 2012—Health & Wellness: University of New Hampshire, Durham

Dining services has taken a multi-department approach to improving the health of its customers.

Students get a chance to prepare healthy foods in a
student chef competition.

Foodservice operators at many colleges and universities have developed health and wellness programs, but few have taken their efforts to the extent that dining services at the University of New Hampshire has done.

Not only has the department, led by Director Jon Plodzik, implemented nutrition education components and dealt with the issues of allergens and gluten intolerance, it also has partnered with the Healthy UNH Initiative to engage people from all over campus to live a healthier lifestyle. That extra push is what led judges to honor the university with the Goldies Award in the category Health & Wellness.

Dining services at the University of New Hampshire has taken a multi-department approach to improving the health of its customers.

Foodservice operators at many colleges and universities have developed health and wellness programs, but few have taken their efforts to the extent that dining services at the University of New Hampshire has done.

Not only has the department, led by Director Jon Plodzik, implemented nutrition education components and dealt with the issues of allergens and gluten intolerance, it also has partnered with the Healthy UNH Initiative to engage people from all over campus to live a healthier lifestyle. That extra push is what led judges to honor the university with the Goldies Award in the category Health & Wellness.

“Three years ago, [University] President Huddleston said he thought we could be doing better in the area of health—not just wellness but overall health,” says Jill Porter, one of the principals of Healthy UNH. “We’ve taken a broad approach from the UNH side, bringing folks together from all around campus. But dining has been able to connect the dots for us across multiple layers. Where at other campuses you might see the dining program working in isolation, here they really have tried to engage, as much as possible, other parts of the university.

“You see it with the local foods effort, [the department’s] use of our dietetic interns as show
cased in the video [submission] and in the [campus] walks that dining has so graciously supported.”

The keystone of the UNH healthy dining initiative has been dining services’ use of the Guiding Stars program. Guiding Stars is an independent service that measures the health quotient of foods and labels them accordingly with stars. The more stars—the maximum is three—the healthier the item.

“When we first implemented Guiding Stars the comments we got were, ‘Boy, that sounds like it’s going to be a lot of work,’” admits Plodzik. “But our people really have this passion to be better and to do more and more. So we worked through the challenges and have made the program work for our customers.”

In addition to the use of the Guiding Stars, dining services lists all nutritional information, not only at the point of selection but also on the department’s website, at nutrition kiosks in the dining halls and even as an app for smartphones.

“We want to actively engage our customers to think about food and how it can help them,” says Rochelle D’Italien, R.D., the department’s staff dietitian. “It’s about educating them with My Plate, getting them to look at all the food groups and to introduce them to foods they might not have tried before.”

UNH was also one of the first universities to actively address wellness issues outside of what students shouldn’t eat, by helping students avoid foods they can’t eat. UNH’s gluten-free stations, for instance, have been a model for other campuses. As this excerpt from UNH’s Goldies entry form states:

“Students and guests delight in the flexibility and choices we offer for dietary concerns like gluten intolerance, food allergies, lifestyle preferences and religious beliefs. Our gluten-free program is like no other, offering the ability to select gluten-free options online, via our ‘gluten phone,’ in our gluten-free stations located in each dining hall and through personal consultation with our culinary director and dietitian.

One thing UNH’s healthy initiative has not done is limit or place an emphasis on prohibition.

“Our program has never been about removing choices,” says Plodzik, who notes that students can still get burgers and chicken nuggets if they want. “It’s been about educating customers about making better choices. We want students to make the choices themselves. We want them to walk up to the soda machine and see the flavored water that we’ve prepared for them right next to those machines, and say, ‘You know, I bet that water would be healthier for me,’ and make that choice. For us, it’s all about changing behavioral patterns.”

Success, Plodzik adds, would be the day when the department can look at production sheets
and say, “We went through 25 pounds of chicken nuggets today, but we went through 250 pounds of salmon.”

Culinary Services Director Ralph Coughenour has been working diligently with his team of chefs to reduce the sodium, sugar and trans fats in virtually everything the department prepares.

“We are working to do as much scratch cooking as possible,” says Coughenour. “Easy is never better and fresh is always best. In addition to our chicken nuggets, for example, we serve a baked chicken tenderloin that has gone over very well. When we work with the Guiding Stars chefs we are always looking for ways to up the nutritional quality of our meals.”

Plodzik believes that “there is a marked difference between ourselves and what a lot of other places do.” But, he adds, that’s not enough. “We have a vision for UNH to be the healthiest campus community in the country by 2020.”

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The new unpaid-balance policy at Canon-McMillan School District in Pittsburgh is making waves after a former cafeteria worker sounded off about the practice on social media.

Stacy Koltiska said she quit her job with the district after being forced to take hot meals away from students who owed lunch money, CBS News reports .

Under a new policy that was implemented at Canon-McMillan this year, students whose lunch debt exceeds $25 are not allowed to receive a hot lunch. Children in grades K-6 are given a sandwich in its place, and older students receive no lunch. A recent...

Industry News & Opinion

Due to low participation in its lunch program, Talawanda School District in Oxford, Ohio, is raising the price of school meals this year, Patch.com reports .

The cost of school lunches will see a 30-cent increase, half of which is being enacted to cover the district’s budget. The other half is being required by the government to cover the cost of free and reduced-price lunches provided to low-income families. Prior to this year, the district had not raised prices since 2009.

The district’s cafeterias have experienced a decline in student participation since implementing the...

Industry News & Opinion

Six Philadelphia hospitals were honored by the city’s department of public health for healthy food initiatives introduced as part of the local Good Food, Healthy Hospitals program, bizjournals.com reports .

The hospitals each debuted healthy measures to their dining services, such as lowering the cost of water bottles and seltzers, and offering dishes that incorporate local produce. One hospital was also honored for operating its own organic farm.

The facilities that were honored were:

Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s Eastern...
Sponsored Content
chili flakes and peppers spicy hot

From Catallia.

When planning your menus, take note: college and university students think spicy is hot.

Fifty-seven percent of consumers age 18-34 find spicy flavors, “extremely appealing,” according to Technomic. And almost 50% of college students surveyed said they would like their schools to offer more ethnic foods and beverages, states a recent Technomic College & University Consumer Trend Report. Translation: they like their food kicked up a notch!

More Options than Ever

“Students of today are all about flavor,” says Steve Mangan, director of dining for...

FSD Resources