March is National Nutrition Month, a designation made 50 years ago by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The month-long campaign has been adopted and adapted by dietitians and foodservice directors to encourage healthful eating habits and physical activity.
The 2023 campaign slogan, “Fuel for the Future,” is designed to boost environmental awareness along with good nutrition and exercise.
“The theme is very general, but for me, it includes two areas that are very important to college students: cultural foods and sustainability,” says Jessica Tones, program director of marketing and nutrition at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “We have a large international community, so plant-forward menus are a natural part of their culture and ‘everybody belongs’ is part of our programming.”
The beginning of March also coincides with Eating Disorders Awareness Week, so Tones kicked off National Nutrition Month with body image acceptance education. This also fits the “everybody belongs” component of her program, she says.
On March 14, Carnegie Mellon is partnering with General Mills to celebrate National Cereal Day with a make-your-own cereal snack mix and branded giveaways.
On March 19, Chartwells Higher Ed, which runs a portion of the foodservice venues at Carnegie Mellon, is sponsoring a Chopped-style cooking competition patterned on the TV Show. This event presents student-athletes as chefs and advocates for healthy eating. “We’ll start it off with a trivia contest, and the student who wins gets first access to the pantry for the cooking competition,” Tones says.
Four days later, Chartwells is sponsoring a sustainability workshop on March 23 and calling it “Unplugged Day.”
“On the culinary side, we’re going to serve all foods that don’t require cooking,” says Tones. Plant-based items will figure prominently into the menu. “But we’ll also talk about the mental wellness aspect of being ‘unplugged’ or offline and away from your phone.”
Then, on March 29, there’s Chartwells’ Farmers Market, a gathering of small producers and growers from the community. “Students can use their dining dollars to buy local foods and and products,” she says.
Using the “Fuel for the Future” platform, “we’re here to teach life,” she adds.
While Chartwells is Carnegie Mellon’s foodservice management company, the school also partners with 14 independent vendors, all of whom are local, independent restaurants. Students can choose anywhere to eat with their dining dollars.
“We haven’t found other colleges that work on this hybrid model,” says Tones. “We help the vendors retain their individuality and that keeps our dining scene exciting.”
This story has been updated to reflect more current information.