The University of Vermont dining team, led by Executive Chef Brandon Williams, hosted a Future 50 Foods-themed dinner on March 16.
Future 50 Foods, a report compiled by the World Wildlife Fund in partnership with Knorr, identifies 50 items humans should eat more frequently to decrease environmental impact while increasing their meals’ nutritional value. UVM’s foodservice provider, Sodexo, partnered with the initiative to provide students with dishes that empower positive change and improve health.
Williams and his team held the event in three dining halls—Central Campus Dining, Harris Millis Dining and Redstone Unlimited—planning and preparing a variety of dishes at each.
“The students moved from station to station, very active and engaged with the idea and the dinner we served,” says Williams.
The menu focused on grains, legumes and vegetables; some items were enhanced with small amounts of cheese and other animal proteins. A key Future 50 criteria is that all ingredients have to be readily accessible and easily sourced.
Among the menu standouts were Brazilian black bean soup and a lentil shepherd’s pie topped with mashed sweet potatoes and paired with millet pilaf. A kale-and-red-onion grilled cheese sandwich was on offer “for the less adventurous,” says Williams, “but it was a different and appealing way to serve kale.”
One station was outfitted as a hummus bar, with a trio of dips: edamame hummus, black bean spread and black-eyed pea hummus. For dessert, there were no-bake cookies made with puffed wild rice, peanut butter and chocolate—"a big hit with the students,” he says.
Among the 5,000 students on UVM’s meal plan are a sizeable number of vegetarians and flexitarians, Williams says, so there are always plant-forward options in the dining halls. But some of the Future 50 ingredients, such as millet, amaranth, maitake and enoki mushrooms, flax seeds and beet greens, are less familiar. So the chefs worked with UVM’s marketing team to create educational materials for each station describing some of these ingredients, where they come from, how they’re grown and other details.
To excite students about the dinner, the chefs also got the menus out to the marketing team about two weeks prior to the event. Details were blasted on social media, including enticing photos on Instagram. Marketing also created digital signage for each of the three dining halls.
“This was the kickoff event for our partnership with Future 50 Foods, and we plan to do more,” says Williams.