University offers healthier food options

Chris Galvin Jan 27, 2014

In the January 2014 issue of Dining Dish, Housing and Dining Services announced two important changes to the healthy food options on campus: extended hours at Evgefstos and new healthy menu options available at The Underground.

Evgefstos features vegan and vegetarian options not available elsewhere on campus. The eatery, however, was not open for dinner during the fall semester, and was only open until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
During Dining Services Advisory Council (DSAC) meetings, members of Undergraduate Student Senate brought attention to the popularity of Evgefstos and the demand for extended hours. Dining Services responded to the feedback by extending the location’s hours until 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“Meeting the needs of our vegetarian populations is an ongoing priority area in campus dining since [Evgefstos] opened in 2006” wrote Paula Martin, University Health Services’s registered dietitian, in an email.
Students have responded positively to the change and seem to appreciate the increase in healthy dinner options.

“I am neither vegan or vegetarian, but I think it’s a healthy option, and I am interested in eating healthy,” said Ade Odutayo, a master’s student in the Tepper School of Business.

“I think [the new hours] are better, [and provide] more options,” said senior mechanical engineering major Krystina Calfo. “I usually go to Resnik, but now I can come here instead.”

Dining Services is continuing to try to expand healthy and vegetarian options on campus by working with vendor partners to offer more vegetarian and vegan dishes at various dining locations.

“The past three years have included the addition of several new dining locations and seriously improved menus,” wrote student body vice president and junior electrical and computer engineering major Ian Glasner, in an email. “The food on campus is much healthier than it ever has been.”

The change in The Underground menu was also inspired by student opinions at DSAC meetings.

“Based on student feedback, Dining Services collaborated with our vending partner at The Underground to offer more healthy choices for students, besides the very popular traditional late night fare,” wrote Pascal Petter, director of Dining Services, in an email. “Although students can still order a cheeseburger or chicken fingers, they now have healthier alternatives to select from.”

The new menu items include more gluten-free options and egg beaters available for breakfast, as well as seven sandwiches, two salads, and one specialty item — blackened salmon filet. The Underground has also started to use whole-grain bread for the majority of sandwiches. In addition to these changes, The Underground has implemented a three-week rotating menu cycle that offers meal options under 500 calories.

“This cycle menu was launched as we learned from students that a similar menu offered at the Exchange, our highest volume dining location, was extremely popular,” wrote Petter in the email. “We shared this with our vendor partner at The Underground and the concept was emulated with positive results thus far.”

“Under 500 calories is healthy by the Underground’s standards,” Calfo said.

Other changes to improve healthy food options include fresh produce in Entropy+, a new noodle bowl concept for the Marketplace in the University Center, and grilled salmon available at The Exchange.
“We have to balance between offering our students variety and balance while also catering to taste preference,” wrote Martin. “The key here is ‘we offer’ and it is up to each individual student to ‘decide’ which menu items to choose and this is where the nutrition education and health promotion piece comes into the equation.”

University Health Services also contributes to improving students’ diets on campus by providing services to promote healthy eating and lifestyles.

“We offer peer education programs, individual nutrition counseling and education sessions, screening for disordered eating, and established the dinning icon program to assist vendors with menu planning that includes health-focused dining offerings” said Martin.

Housing and Dining Services has even more changes planned for the remainder of the semester, including premium dinners and theme nights in Schatz Dining Room, bento box lunches available from Worlds of Flavor, culinary showcase events, farmers’ markets, additional gluten-free items, and Halal options.

“I think we could do more for people with food allergies,” wrote Glasner in the email. “However, this is a difficult problem to solve because allergies vary greatly from person to person.”
For the upcoming fall semester, students can expect a nutrition app that will allow students to check nutritional values on any menu item from their mobile device, as well as more dining locations with revised hours of operation to reflect student demand.

“As the demand for healthy food continues to grow on campus, I have no doubt that CMU administration will continue to provide the quality of food students prefer,” wrote Glasner. “I am working closely with Pascal Petter, the director of dining services, to make sure students have access to healthy food if they want it.”

“We will continue to collaborate with students and campus departments to evolve the program based on campus needs and trends within the campus dining industry,” wrote Petter in the email. “As a matter of fact, I am currently developing a dining master plan and would welcome any suggestions or ideas that can help me make better informed decisions.” Students can contact Petter by going to his office in Morewood Gardens, via phone at (412) 268-9719, or email atppetter@andrew.cmu.edu.