In an attempt to make dining choices healthier and more sustainable, Boston College Dining Services joined the Menus of Change University Research Collaborative (MCURC) and is currently rolling out changes, including additional healthy food options and renovated eating spaces, in dining halls across campus.
MCURC is made up of 41 universities across the country that collaborate on nutrition research and education. The group plans to meet at Harvard University in October to discuss new ways to fix existing food issues at its member schools.
“For us, I don’t think it is going to be a big change because we’ve already been doing it,” said Michael Forcier, general manager of dining in McElroy Commons. “We’re just going to continue to do what we are doing and now we have a sort of buzz behind it to help us market it.”
Last year, BC Dining Services focused on culinary innovation. Director of BC Dining Services Elizabeth Emery noted that the “test kitchen” menu options naturally became healthier without focusing on nutrition. This year, Dining Services’ primary focus is creating more nutritious and environmentally friendly options for students. It has developed about 55 new recipes for the new year, according to Forcier.
“If you look at the trends in restaurants, you’re just seeing people picking healthier, more sustainable options,” Emery said. “And a lot of meat eaters are starting to pick more of the grains and the legumes, which are all a part of this protein flip.”
As part of efforts to decrease the amount of meat and increase the amount of vegetables in students’ diets, Eagle’s Nest will introduce harmony bowls, which will replace the standard deli line. The bowls feature marinated kale, brown rice, quinoa, and vegetables.
The harmony bowls were created after the BC Dining team visited a nearby restaurant and saw a similar version of the bowl. It became Forcier’s mission to replicate and improve the bowl for Eagle’s Nest.
Corcoran Commons and McElroy will also test out a sushi option once a week. The sushi will be pre-prepared and served to students. Corcoran Commons will also offer vegan pizza options, as Dining Services is focusing on creating alternative choices for vegan and vegetarian students.
Hillside will now include a Bagel Bar, where students can choose from a variety of bagel sandwiches, and a Starbucks bar. After the popularity of the Starbucks in McElroy Commons, Emery decided it would benefit students on Lower Campus to add a second location.
BC Dining paired with BC Athletics to offer lobster rolls and New England clam chowder at Alumni Stadium this year. Normally, stadiums around the country will have regional food options, Emery said, and lobster rolls and chowder represent BC.
Dining Services also focused on improving the aesthetic of the Rat and Eagle’s Nest. Eagle’s Nest was recently updated with new tables, booths, and couches. In the Rat, Dining Services updated the presentation and image of the dining hall by adding digital signage and rearranging the food.
The Rat will also now have a Shaker Salad Bar, which will allow students to create personal salads in a small, round container. The Bar will be similar to the Green It station in Eagle’s Nest.
Dining Services will continue its Culinary Showcases from last year. Instead of holding each of the dining halls’ on different nights like last year, Dining Services will now hold every dining hall’s event on the same night. Emery decided that this would increase awareness, and make students more involved in dining changes.
The first Culinary Showcase will take place Sept. 14 and will include a presentation on MCURC. EcoPledge and Health Coaches from the Office of Health Promotion will have booths to educate students on the environmental effects of the food they eat.
Emery is also trying to incorporate students into the decision-making process by creating a Dining Advisory Board, which will consist of students from different groups around campus and will meet twice a semester. It will discuss improvements to be made within BC Dining. According to Emery, most of the new food options came from student suggestions.
Carson Truesdell, CSOM ’17, is working with Dining Services to present a study on the difference between positive and negative messaging on student decision-making and behavior. The research will be presented at the national Menus of Change conference at Harvard in September.
“Students should expect more marketing and signage relating to food waste in the future,” Truesdell said.
Emery said BC Dining is always looking for new suggestions from both students and faculty. Last January, for example, she bought the Dining Services team members selfie sticks so that when they saw new or innovative ideas to implement into BC dining halls, they could take a selfie and send it in.
“This time of year is really the time that we want students to come to us,” Emery said. “Particularly if they have an allergy, or a medical nutrition need, or if they just need help finding something. It’s so big, sometimes, that it is a little intimidating.”
Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Editor