'Fresh, not fast' is Dining Services' new motto

Nutritional focus shifts to healthier options

by Kody Jon Klein, Melissa Ardery, Published October 02, 2012

Eastern Michigan University students are able to make healthier food choices and be less wasteful, thanks to several innovative programs by Eastern Michigan University Dining Services.

"Fresh, not fast," is the new motto around campus by Executive Chef Thomas Murray.

"By purchasing higher quality food and producing it in smaller batches, the nutritional focus is shifting to give students healthier, fresher options," said Murray.

 The focus this year was on the food, Murray says. Recipes are designed 'from the ground up.'

"Once the recipes are prepared, our new system prevents waste," Murray says. "They're not making 600 chicken breasts at a time. They're only cooking as many as they need."

To ensure healthier options, Dining Services partners with students in the EMU graduate dietetics program to analyze nutritional information, so the information is available to customers.

Gina Worful, a graduate student in the dietetics program, explained how she and other students are making the nutritional information 'available right out front of every restaurant.'

 "Whether they choose to eat healthy, we're making the option available to our students," Worful said. 

Dining Services will debut their new website November 1, according to Associate Director of Dining Services Dave Carroll. Once launched, it will feature detailed nutritional information for every meal served on campus.

Students with special diets will have an easier time choosing meal options. The staff is increasing the number of choices for vegetarians, vegans, and people who are gluten intolerant.

"We went to Whole Foods and bought flourless tortillas, and we added vegan proteins," Murray said. "We added, upon request, vegan meatballs, chicken breasts, beef and chicken strips."

One of the more popular vegan options, the Quinoa Cup, a vegan and gluten-free shaker salad, won first place in the National Association of College and University Food Services' national competition for best vegan recipe. 

Students with uncommon food allergies can also order with confidence, knowing they will be accommodated with custom dishes if they provide a doctor's note to Dining Services.

 Murray stated, "We have a dedicated chef to make special meals for our students.  We have 12 students who need special meals right now, and not one of them is the same." 

It can be an arduous process, says Murray, but he believes in serving every customer equally great, fresh food.

With increasing awareness in environmental issues, sustainability has taken a front seat for EMU Dining Services. Initiatives include:

  • Switching to compostable containers and Greenware cups derived from corn,
  • Launching an oil recycling program, and
  • Purchasing more local products

 "Every year we look at the costs of what we are using," Murray said. "Even though the accrued expense was $6,000 to use the Greenware cups on campus, it's the right thing to do."

By working with Gordon Food Services, Dining Services was able to keep 17 percent of their purchases local last year.

 "We could call ourselves local, but we don't feel we've earned that yet," Murray said. 

EMU Dining Services is striving to constantly make more sustainable choices, as well as provide students with local, nutritious food.

"Fresh food takes precedence," Murray says. "These changes are only going to benefit the lives of the EMU community."



Pamela Young

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