Applied Food Studies Menus of Change Plant-Forward Policy

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Students in the Applied Food Studies Food Policy course research and present a white paper on some aspect of the food policy or economy and its impact on the CIA. A recent presentation was entitled: Implanting Menus of Change at the CIA: An Analysis of the CIA’s Implementation of the Menus of Change Plant-Forward Principles and a Guide for Improvement. I know, it’s a long title! But when I attended the presentation, I found it went by in a flash, captured the attention of all, and prompted a lot of important discussions.

Menus of Change (MOC)—an annual conference hosted in partnership between the CIA and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, promotes the adoption of a plant-forward diet as an option in a healthy lifestyle and as an important piece of environmental sustainability. A plant-forward diet is defined as a style of cooking and eating that emphasizes, but is not limited to, plant-based food and the reduction of animal protein.

The students’ research, which included a student survey, analysis of production kitchen menus, and multiple interviews with current deans and chef-instructors, enabled them to observe the CIA’s implementation of the plant-forward principles. Areas for improvement were evident, while some results were encouraging. For example, at The Egg, the student dining facility, where a student class in high-volume production cooking takes place, there were a number of plant-forward options. There, all burgers are made using blends of meat and some form of plant proteins like mushrooms and bulgur. Roughly 37% of the burger mass is made up of plants affording not only a healthier option, but also a more cost-effective one. Some of the hands-on courses like Cuisines of Asia, produce a whole-grain option with each entrée, and all kitchens offer a unique vegetarian option. The students’ presented their suggestions for increasing student exposure to plant-based foods and creating complete proteins from vegetables earlier in the education cycle. They also suggested student in the baking and pastry program have full educational exposure to the plant-forward concepts. In doing so, they hope to impact attitudes about plant-forward meals

After the presentation, the faculty and the students engaged in a lively discussion about the realities of adapting current curriculum, changing attitudes, and ultimately, implementing more of the MOC principles.

Students who presented this research were: Emily Barton, Chastity Dean, Bailey Favreau, Natalina Musacchio, Nicholas van Huffel, Josie Waisbrot, and Jamie Wilkinson.

By Nancy Cocola