Tully Cafe, located in the hub for science, engineering, technology, and entrepreneurship on the Boston College (BC) campus, serves plant-forward, healthy options for students, faculty, and visitors. That made it a natural outlet to test an innovative new product: the sustainable and innovative Seaweed-ish meatball, which takes local Maine sea kelp and turns it into a delicious, sustainable, plant-based meatball alternative.
For its creative approach to promoting sustainability, BC’s Seaweed-ish Meatball initiative has been named the Best Sustainability Concept category winner in the 2023 FM Best Concept Awards program.
Tully Café is located on the first floor of 245 Beacon Street, BC’s newest building, which is home to the university’s integrated science programs. With its healthy, plant-forward dining approach, it has allowed the dining program to test out new menu items and technologies, as well as creating a larger community within a new building made up of smaller communities that are otherwise separated from each other.
Tully Café targets two main populations: students and faculty/researchers, with the student population that wants to quickly grab something to eat as they rush between classes being the largest. Meanwhile, faculty and researchers are drawn to Tully Café because it allows them to take a break from their research, grab food or a cup of coffee, and nourish their minds with others. A growing number of these customers look for sustainable, plant-forward options.
For the Seaweed-ish pilot at Tully, BC Dining partnered with Chef Andrew Wilkinson of North Coast Seafoods, a Boston-based, family-owned seafood supplier, to bring the innovative product to Boston College, making it the first college to do so. The meatballs are made up of a mixture of local Atlantic sea kelp, green chickpeas, brown rice, and spices, and are nutrient-rich, naturally vegan, and gluten-free.
North Coast partners with Atlantic Sea Farms, a Maine-based company that helps lobstermen create a second revenue stream by harvesting kelp, which has an extensive list of health and environmental benefits, and is packed with micronutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals such as iodine, magnesium, folate, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin B12. In addition, kelp is the only plant in the world that needs no land, no fresh water, and no pesticides or herbicides. It improves the health of the ocean by increasing biodiversity and mitigating the effects of ocean acidification.
By serving Seaweed-ish meatballs, a sustainable agricultural crop, BC Dining helps mitigate the climate crisis by promoting the eating of less meat and utilizing less monoculture and the use of fewer pesticides.
Wilkinson did the product development and testing for BC and the team created two offerings: The Cousteau Bowl—Seaweed-ish Meatballs on arugula, saffron rice, roasted red pepper hummus, whipped feta, pita crisps, pickled onions, and avocado—and a smaller side version for those looking for a healthy snack.
After testing and sampling, the Seaweed-ish meatballs were a hit with Tully’s customers and The Cousteau is now on Tully’s permanent menu.
In fact, students and staff loved them so much that a Professor at Boston College, Kurt Straif, invited Wilkinson to his Global Public Health class, where he gave samples of the Seaweed-ish Meatballs and taught the students about kelp farming and how it is an increasingly important alternative in the wake of the global health and climate crisis.