For one night, students got a glimpse into the future of food at the University of Vermont’s three dining halls. The event was part of Sodexo’s partnership with Future 50 Foods, a project from the World Wildlife Fund and Knorr that’s centered around a list of 50 ingredients based on their low environmental impact, taste and nutrition profile.
The list includes items like millet, wild rice, black-eyed peas, chicken thighs, sustainable seafood, quinoa, lentils, root veggies, leafy greens and many more. See the whole report here.
From that list, Executive Chef Eric Caravan and the UVM Sodexo team went to work developing an early-spring menu that would showcase just how delicious a sustainable future could be. In fact, the foodservice team has already been using many of these ingredients, so the event was less of a one-off and more of a highlight that spotlighted the ingredients in a new way.
Photo: Executive Chef Eric Caravan plans to incorporate sustainable foods like grains, legumes and plants into menu items across the concepts at the University of Vermont.
“Future 50 ingredients have become staples in our dining halls and program over the last few years,” Caravan says. “There is an ever-growing number of consumers looking for healthy options, with a focus particularly on vegetarian and vegan options. Chefs at UVM offer a variety of sustainably sourced grains, legumes and vegetables during each meal period.”
The special meal featured displays with raw ingredients and fun facts on digital screens along with printed signage at each station. Menu items across stations included Cajun shrimp with barley mushroom rice pilaf, black eyed peas and okra; cumin-roasted chicken thighs with roasted sweet potato, sauteed spinach and caramelized onions; millet pilaf with roasted grape tomatoes and kale; quinoa-black lentil salad, chorizo-kale-potato soup and puffed grain no-bake cookies for dessert.
The plant-forward menu wasn’t a shock to students, who are used to seeing Future 50 ingredients “featured regularly on our menus, especially at our three plant-based stations and salad bars across campus,” says Sustainability and Campus Partnership Manager Nicole Reilly, MS RD. “These menu items tend to be globally inspired and are fan favorites for all students, not just vegetarians and vegans. Some favorites at UVM include quinoa burgers, kale chips, spinach salads, lentils and roasted tofu.”
On the UVM campus, awareness is high around the sustainability and responsibility of our food systems. “Our students really care about the environmental impact of their food choices, but don’t want to sacrifice flavor or variety, so you have to get creative.”
“One of our many focuses when designing a menu is to ensure that students have access to Future 50 ingredients, not just at our plant-based stations, but also throughout our facilities. By treating the ingredients this way, we normalize consumption and create healthier dining habits,” Caravan says. “As a chef, I find that our consumers are now choosing more sustainable food options, even if they’re pairing them with animal-based proteins. The shift in these patterns will hopefully produce a healthier student and planet alike.”