Diners sample the fare at the recent event held by BCDS. (All photos by Caitlin Cunningham)

Students might not expect to get an education when they’re in the campus dining halls, but that’s what happened when Boston College Dining Services celebrated its participation in the Menus of Change University Research Collaborative program with a culinary showcase featuring healthy and sustainable menu items. Vegetable, legume and grain-based soups were served along with meals that offered grains, legumes and smaller portions of animal proteins, while fruits and vegetables were the foundations for dessert.

Menus of Change selection

Menus of Change was created by the Culinary Institute of America and Stanford University and includes 40 colleges and universities. A major purpose of the collaborative is to create a culture of sharing and innovation among colleges and universities. So, each month, BCDS will pick a Menus of Change principle to highlight: for September, it was “Buy Fresh and Seasonal, Local and Global”; this month, it's “Think Produce First.”

With the focus on food that is healthy, sustainable, and delicious, BCDS plans to offer up more nutritious dishes, while educating students about making better choices. 

“To grow a pulse – which are grain legumes and a good source of protein – versus raising a cow for a burger or steak, requires significantly less water,” said Director BCDS Beth Emery. “We educate students about those types of choices. Not only are you making a better choice for your health but you’re also making a better choice for the Earth.”

Menus of Change selection

One example Emery cited is BCDS’ partnership with the Grateful Burger, through which Dining Services offers a blended burger, 50 percent beef and 50 percent vegetables, grains, herbs and spices. 

“That’s a healthier option, but it’s also a more sustainable option. In general, that’s what we’re trying to do: Introduce more grains and more vegetables to serve alongside the favorite items. The idea is to have a variety of choices for the students and community.”

Coming up with healthy and nutritious items hasn’t been difficult, thanks to the Test Kitchen concept that BC Dining introduced campus-wide last year, which helped produce roughly 50 new menu options.

“Most of those were these Menu of Change types of options, healthier and more sustainable so it certainly is what the students seem to be looking for,” said Emery. “It’s what you’re seeing out in restaurants – more plant-based, grain-based, legume-based offerings with smaller pieces of traditional animal proteins.”

 Emery and her colleagues will attend a Menus of Change conference next month, where new menu ideas are certain to surface. In the meantime, she encourages students “to tell us what they like and what they don’t.”

—Sean Hennessey | News & Public Affairs

Menus of Change culinary selections