A healthy challenge

Helping operators cope with gluten-free and other special diets pose.

These are trying times for foodservice directors and dietitians. In our August issue, we will be running an eight-page supplement called “Healthy and Gluten Free.” In preparation for this supplement, I have learned just how difficult it is becoming for operators to offer all menus to all people, as many in non-commercial foodservice try to do, under the growing burden of health and wellness issues.

I’m beginning to believe that I must be in the minority in this country, in that I have no food-related allergies or intolerances. Everywhere I turn there seems to be either one station or another that caters to a specific diet or warning signs or labels alerting customers to the presence of some ingredient that could be dangerous to people with specific food allergies or intolerances.

It is challenging enough for operators to try to convince people to eat more healthfully. Although more people seem to be concerned with proper nutrition, the majority of customers in most institutions are asking for healthier options and choosing to pass them by when they actually eat.

Add to this the increasing concern over food allergies, lactose intolerance and celiac disease. As a matter of fact, in some circles the push for a gluten-free diet—the solution for celiac disease sufferers—appears to be superseding that of healthier diets in general. And now, we have the latest addition to diets on the celiac front, that being gluten sensitivity. According to some studies, although as many as 3 million people may have celiac disease, 10 times that number may be gluten intolerant.

I am not making light of those people who suffer from food allergies or intolerances. All I’m saying is that it has to be increasingly difficult for operators to plan menus and create new stations and concepts while bearing these challenges in mind.

Operators in the non-commercial segments do not have the luxury of specializing their menus. Unlike restaurateurs, who create concepts that play to their strengths and are geared toward generating the highest traffic and biggest ROI, non-commercial operators must try to offer items to meet the needs and desire of a wide variety of customers. They often cannot afford to ignore certain types of customers, such as vegans, simply because they don’t have strength of numbers.

The menu diversity required in many non-commercial cafeterias taxes both the creativity and the budgets of menu planners. And in some segments—most particularly schools, where in-school kitchens are an endangered species—the ability to offer a full range of healthful meals is becoming exceedingly difficult.

We’ll be exploring this subject in more detail in upcoming issues of FSD. How are you coping with the increasing menu diversity required in meeting so many different health-related concerns? Share your stories with me at pking@cspnet.com.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion
Shedd Aquarium White Sox Shedd The Straw

The Chicago White Sox have partnered with the Shedd Aquarium to support their “Shedd the Straw” initiative: a plan that the groups expect to curb the use of plastic straws by about 215,000 this baseball season.

Beginning on Earth Day, April 22, drinks at all dining locations throughout the Sox’s Guaranteed Rate Field will not be automatically served with plastic straws. Guests will be provided with biodegradable straws upon request. Guaranteed Rate Field is said to be the first in Major League Baseball to ban the use of plastic straws.

“At one of Shedd Aquarium’s local...

Industry News & Opinion

The Henry P. Kendall Foundation, a philanthropic group that aims to create a more sustainable food system in New England, has announced its creation of the New England Food Vision Prize .

The foundation is inviting foodservice leaders from colleges and universities throughout New England to submit their ideas on how to create a stronger food system that will help the region produce at least half of its own food by 2060.

Qualifying ideas must be collaborative and replicable, among other requirements. The foundation hopes that by reaching out to large food purchasers, like...

Industry News & Opinion
CP building

Central Point School District in Central Point, Ore., is sprucing up its lunch program by adding more locally produced foods and scratch-made dishes, KDRV reports.

A nutritionist and chef from the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council trained school staff on 15 new recipes with the goal of upgrading the school lunch menu.

The ongoing project has been successfully implemented in other Oregon school districts over the last eight years. The trainings focus on Oregon State University Extension Food Hero recipes that meet USDA nutrition standards and incorporate locally sourced...

Industry News & Opinion

Carson City School District in Carson City, Nev., hosted its Breakfast with a Hero event this week, Carson Now reports.

Held at an elementary school, the event invited local law enforcement to serve breakfast and eat with students. Officials say the event was intended to help students connect and engage with local officers in a casual setting.

Read the full story via carsonnow.org .

Photo by Dan Davis at Carson City School District

FSD Resources