Monday, March 24, 2014

CFI: Campus Food Investigation

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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead

The “CFI: Campus Food Investigation” was started by a small group of Bon’App Campus Ambassadors who wanted to document the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of their college dining halls.

Their aim is to conduct extensive research into what food options are available to college students and to improve the variety, quality and access to healthy meals. Initially the group started off with three ambassadors, now there are over fifteen and the team continues to grow as more students find out about the opportunity to represent their University’s dining options. We have started to spread the word about our investigation by creating a Facebook page and Instagram account, as well as using the Bon’App Pinterest and Twitter pages.

The Investigation also involves a 2-minute survey that has been sent out to Universities across the US and the data collection to date has informed us of what college students like and dislike about their dining halls. This information was crucial in the brainstorming session of the “Dream Dining Hall” menu. This ideal dining hall has a flexible meal plan and no “dead hours” (times without service and unhealthy options only). It allows for variety, giving the students ingredients they can creatively combine in order to create meals that suit their taste and health preferences. As well as nutritious food choices, there would also be signage (with photos) all around the dining hall to offer guidance to students who need help crafting more individualized or healthy meals. This signage would also tell students transparently what is in their food (ingredients and main nutrients in simple Bon'App language - Sugar, Bad Fat, Salt) and how much of it, especially the sides of veggies, where it’s often hard to tell the ingredients.

Ideally, the presentation of the food would be nice, thoughtful, not just thrown into big bowls, making the veggie options more enticing. Accurate portion sizes would be served (meaning generally smaller or ad libitum). All of these aspects of the dream dining hall are aimed at creating a standard for all schools,  empowering college students to eat healthier and thus live healthier. It’s all too easy for college students to eat pizza at 3 AM every night and skip breakfast the following morning; instead, we want to encourage healthier eating decisions. A well-balanced diet is crucial for student’s every day performance, whether it’s in class, meetings or workouts. CFI wants to work with college dining halls to help students have nutritious and delicious food choices, which will result in much healthier lifestyles.

This menu was conceived with a cost-conscious approach that relies of 275 surveys filled out by students so far and three brainstormings by a group of 21 students from 16 schools. It will continue to be refined to improve food options on campuses. More details are below.
>>> Each week, the salad bar would display 3 salad guide menus to help students compose a variety of delicious salads with proper portion sizes and a step-by-step process on how to make the salad. (The Bon’App Chapter at U Penn is developing examples.) >>> The greens and toppings would change over time, with the cycle of the dining hall food (for example, two weeks), so that students do not get bored with the salad options. >>> On the Dessert Station, instead of a jug of hot fudge, display a tub of fresh fruits and nuts. 

Many of the above recommendations and Dream Dining Hall menu have been recently implemented by the new Bruin Plate dining hall at UCLA. This proves it can be done! Another great initiative is to reduce the usage of disposable to-go containers. U Penn Dining introduced this new program in its residential dining cafes.

We are looking forward to the day when ALL colleges nationwide will have a Dream Dining Hall menu, environmentally friendly, locally supplied when feasible, and with healthy options throughout campus!


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