Thursday, September 30, 2010

Politics of Food

I was just reading a report by the AP that say's Michelle Obama's nutrition bill has stalled in congress because they would like to pay for it with food stamps. I don't really want to get into the politics of this, but rather ask the question, why do we need a bill to make food more nutritious in schools?

The bill would provide for leaner cuts of meat, removing unhealthy snacks from vending machines and so forth. Do we really need this? Just take the crap out! No mess, no fuss... Does it cost more to serve a 90/10 burger rather than an 80/20? Nope! Does it cost money to get rid of vending machines? Nope (unless you consider the commission from vending machines that the school get's)

I remember the day that my high school way back in 1988 put a soda vending machine on campus and how delighted we were to get it... Why did they introduce a soda machine on campus? I don't think they were thinking about our health, but rather making money off the backs of our poor nutrition. Since I am at it... when did all of this become a right rather than a privilege?

So, I am asking fellow dining director's of schools large and small, primary and secondary to just get rid of it! Renegotiate your contracts for better food! Your suppliers will acquiesce since they don't want to lose these lucrative contracts. Trust me, I have done this for Rice University and guess what? No mess, no fuss.

Come on people... get with it... our children are depending on us!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ready for an Emergency?

We had a little scare last night in one of our kitchens that turned out to be quite minor. However, when was the last time you held emergency procedure training and fire extinguisher use training? If your answer is not lately, I would suggest this be done regularly. In our case, employees had been trained in the middle of August about what to do in the case of fire or an emergency and the threat became minor because of this training. Without training, it could have been worse.

Great job to the crew at the kitchen last night for containing and mitigating a potentially critical situation.
I applaude you all,

Monday, September 20, 2010

Have You Read?

I had an interesting and educational week in Boston this last week which was supposed to be mostly relaxing, but when you live and breath food, there is really no such thing. After filling myself for three day's with the famous cuisine of Boston such as steamers, oysters, and clam chowder, I found myself at Harvard and their bookstore of all places. When in Rome...

Visiting the huge COOP that is the bookstore, I realized that the tables out front designed to catch your attention were filled to the brim with books about food! I don't mean diet and health books necessarily, but the evolution of food and the effect on our society and culture. I like to think of myself as keeping up with the times regarding university dining, but I realized that it is time to look at the history of food to better understand the future.

Like to join me on this adventure? Here are some that I recommend...

The Botany of Desire & In Defense of Food - Michael Pollan
The end of overeating - David Kessler, MD
Catching Fire, How cooking made us human - Richard Wrangham
Student's Vegetarian Cookbook - Carole Raymond
Raising The Salad Bar - Catherine Walthers
Molecular Gastronomy - Herve This
What To Eat - Marion Nestle
The Cook's Herb Garden - Jeff Cox & Marie-Pierre Moine
Eating Animals - Jonathan Safran Foer

Have you read any of these? Share your thoughts...


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Besides the egg recall...

The start of the new academic year dawns a new light on health and wellness. Rice University is continuing with the mission of reducing salt, sugar, and saturated fat (3S's) which was started mid-term in the Spring of 2010. An interesting note about this exercise was that we did not inform the students, we just did it; with great success I might add.

What's new? The freshmen... I am always curious to see the reactions and comments of new freshmen each year, but specifically with the enhanced menu's and healthful options. This has become doubly important for me as my little girl just started public school and the menu's their are adequate at best. Pepperoni pizza, chicken nuggets, mac & cheese; you get the point... The aha moment was when I realized that we are providing home-style meals that do not reflect the primary school's menu's that most of our new student were used to.

The reactions have been positive and our goal is to educate or re-educate (if necessary) student dietary habits. We hope that the primary schools will help us in this endeavor so that we do not receive to much of the "damaged goods", but I fear this will be a long road of change. It can be done though. At least we have 3-4 years with these students to help them.

Around Rice:
The Baker kitchen has opened and we are eagerly awaiting the commissioning of the East Servery in January, 2011. We have published a food miles map that shows the sources of our products which I think will be a tremendous benefit towards student education and for Dining Services. We are still working on our farm project and other farm to market programs.

Have a healthy year and get involved,