Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Fresh & Natural: Clarion's New Plan for Healthy Dining

Dining Insights, Spring 2009

Twenty years ago, college students' favorite meals included fruit and cottage cheese plates, chicken nuggets and chicken chop suey. Today, it's locally-grown fruits and vegetables, crispy garlic-ginger chicken wings and Vietnamese Pho, according to research by national food service contractor Sodexo.

"The biggest change we've seen is in the demand for locally-grown produce and authentic international cuisine that's made to order," says Chef Rob Morasco, Sodexo's senior director of culinary support in the education market.

The idea that healthy dining, combined with their other wellness initiatives, can help employees become more productive has penetrated the corporate world as well.

In 2008, Clarion was asked by a large corporate client to develop a program that "offers menu variety and nutritional food choices that [are] fundamental components of any best-in-class wellness initiative."

The project was the genesis of our new Fresh & Natural approach to planning on-site dining operations. We began with the premise that healthy food promotes healthy people and that healthy people work or study more productively, enjoy life more fully and find their connection to their campus or employer more enjoyable. While a healthy eating program by itself won't guarantee a healthier population, science has shown that when a third or more of daily caloric intake is in unhealthy calories, there is a significant negative impact on the individual.

Fresh & Natural incorporates elements of the Mediterranean Diet, based primarily on vegetables, fruits, fish and meat. We adapt each specific menu to the tastes, customs and preferences of the group for whom we plan the program.

It includes:
  • Developing and implementing imaginative, nutritious meals, prepared from "scratch" using fresh ingredients, locally sourced as possible.
  • Eliminating or minimizing junk food.
  • Using organic and hormone-free foods to the extent practical.
  • Providing nutrition information and education.
  • Reinforcing your initiatives to encourage wellness and a healthy lifestyle.

$1.65 for a Dollar

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield in western Pennsylvania studied worksite healthy foods and wellness initiatives at companies with a total of 12,000 employees. They said they found a savings of $1.65 for every $1.00 spent on the programs, FoodService Director, an industry magazine reports.

Dining Ini