As you’re walking through the doors of the cafeteria, the scent of freshly fried tater tots wafts through the entry way. You eagerly wait as your card is swiped and rush to grab a plate. As tempting as it might be to load up an entire plate of these tasty delicacies, First Lady Michelle Obama has some advice to offer.
On June 2, 2011, Michelle Obama partnered up with the United States Department of Agriculture to replace the MyPyramid guide with the MyPlate diagram. This model shows the appropriate amounts of fruits, vegetables, protein, grains and dairy each person should have on his or her plate during every meal.
JCU Dining has adopted this policy by placing images of the MyPlate model on napkin containers throughout the cafeteria, emphasizing the MyPlate initiative daily.
“ARAMARK made the decision as a company to roll out a program called ‘MyPlate Mondays’ to highlight the USDA program once a week across every campus we serve,” said David Turska, director of dining services. “JCU’s administration and dining services questioned why can’t we highlight the MyPlate program daily instead of weekly, and the team decided to move forward with a daily model instead.”
The MyPlate image is much easier to follow than the obscure drawings of the food pyramid.
“It’s usually a very scary statement to hear, ‘I am from the government, and I am here to help,’ but I commend the USDA for creating a program that is actually very simple in design and easy to follow,” said Turska.
JCU Dining plans to encourage this initiative by providing students with fresh, local produce.
“Dining services wants to use as many local items as possible and has a relationship with Sysco and 54 producers and vendors within a 250-mile radius of JCU to provide the items we consume on campus,” Turska said.
JCU dining services also encourages students to download health and fitness apps that are available on both Google Play and the App Store. One app, called MyPlate, provides general tips for eating healthy, and it also allows you to see the serving sizes of different foods under each food group. Concerns of some students is food allergies.
Freshman Ciara Crossey has both Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease, both of which place restrictions on her diet.
“While there are some gluten-free options in the caf, I think the selections are severely limited,” said Crossey. “I often find myself having to eat the same thing every single meal. In addition, it is difficult to determine which things are truly gluten-free and have not been cross-contaminated.”
Freshman Karis Laurito expressed the same concerns.
“They should make a separate bar of gluten-free food because a big problem is cross-contamination. I eat chicken and rice salad every day for every meal,” said Laurito.
Both Crossey and Laurito suggest creating a separate section for people with celiac disease, as people with celiac disease often lack a balanced diet with a sufficient amount of grains. Laurito suggested a gluten-free pasta bar or pizza station.
Dining Services is currently working to improve these conditions for students with celiac disease.
“Nick, our executive chef, lives a gluten-free life outside of his daily grind and is very in touch with providing celiac-friendly options,” said Turska. “JCU dining services has developed a gluten-free program that provides numerous daily options with proper labeling to signify what food options are gluten free. We also have a copy of our monthly menu with gluten-free options or items that can be made gluten-free by any student.”
Turska also said that while JCU dining is facing some challenges, they are discussing adding a new gluten-free station once they develop a viable plan.