Grabbing health to go

Portable foods get pumped up as snacking turns into a meal occasion.

salad shaker

The partitioned, compostable cups that hold breakfast yogurt parfaits sparked healthy grab-and-go ideas throughout the day at University of Texas at Austin. Assembled in-house, whole-grain Salad Shakers, launched in October, are sold at UT's retail outlets. Kitchen staff layers a rotating selection of cooked grains (farro, barley, ruby rice or five-grain rice blend), kalamata olives, mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and torn basil in a similar container; a separate lid holds the housemade salad dressing. Building on that shaker’s popularity, UT introduced Edamame Shakers in January.

“Today’s students don’t make time for sound eating habits,” says Lindsay Wilson, registered dietitian at UT. “With healthier grab-and-go foods, they can eat between classes, while socializing, studying, etc.” 

Lunchtime is the busiest meal period for purchase of the heartier salad shakers ($3.99), with many students buying two and storing one in their dorm room’s mini fridge to snack on later, says Wilson. Students purchase the Edamame Shakers ($3.29)— filled with protein-rich edamame and topped with a partitioned lid holding seasonings such as kosher salt, Cajun spices or dried chilies—as more of a snack.

The original salad shaker was so popular that four now are in UT’s regular grab-n-go rotation; the edamame version was tested for a month and will roll out permanently in September. “We have to make sure the kitchen can handle it,” says Director of Food Service Rene Rodriguez. “Any time you add special containers and more prep, it adds extra production time.”

The B&I segment also has expanded grab-and-go snack options to meet customer demand for healthier anytime eating. “We provide snack boxes in our cafe and catering services that include housemade hummus and pita chips along with carrots, broccoli, tomato and cucumber.

Even more innovative offerings include housemade almond and sunflower seed butter,” says Amy Lucas, registered dietitian and wellness coordinator for Eurest at Chevron’s corporate locations in California, Texas and Louisiana. “I’m seeing people buying snack foods that I don’t think they would have considered buying five or 10 years ago.”

Guests also are interested in combining multiple snack selections into meals. “Eurest chefs have personally experienced what trend watchers have observed: Increasingly, more diners are eating four or five small meals each day rather than three,” says Mike Fiato, vice president of consumer experience for the contract feeder. “In B&I, we began seeing grazing with our millennial diners, but snack-size meals that can be eaten on the go also are becoming popular with Gen X and baby boomers.” 

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The University of New Mexico’s proposed on-campus taproom has officially been approved by the school’s Board of Regents.

Construction on the $650,000 student union taproom will begin this summer and is expected to finish in August when students return to campus. The school’s food vendor, Chartwells, and UNM’s Dining & Food Services department will split the cost of the taproom evenly.

Designed by students in the school’s architecture department, the space will feature a rotating selection of beer and wine, and will also welcome guest brewers. Chartwells will be...

Ideas and Innovation
cafeteria

Three years ago, Colonial School District in New Castle, Del., started a pilot supper program at its high school. The goal: To make sure the district’s students, 57% of whom are on free or reduced-priced meals, would not be hungry when school is done for the day.

Since its inception, the program has expanded to 12 schools and now provides afterschool meals to children participating in YMCA activities. And it's just one of many such programs popping up in districts throughout the country, as operators add supper to the list of daily meals they provide for students.

Building...
Ideas and Innovation
hydroponics

We put our hydroponic gardens in a spot where students can watch them grow, but at the same time it’s safe from being tampered with. At one of our elementary schools, the gardens are in the kitchen, but there’s a window where students can look in as they walk down the hallway. Some even stop to count how many cucumbers they see.

Ideas and Innovation
food snap

We started a 50-member vegan team in response to students expressing the need for more vegan options. Between our monthly meetings, students are asked to take photos of foods they eat in and out of the dining halls to give us a true picture of the kinds of things they like and the kinds of foods that cause disappointment. This exercise has sparked a lot of conversation and given us more insight into what we could do better.

FSD Resources