“It’s like Earth Day, but for food.” That’s how Bill Allman, director of sustainability for Metz Culinary Management, described Food Day, a nationwide event in October. Fifty of Metz’s college, school and healthcare accounts participated this year.
Like Earth Day, Food Day is an annual occurrence that’s meant to raise awareness and have an impact on the other 364 days of the year.
The menu for lunch that day was largely plant-based, with a focus on ways to decrease the use of resources like fossil fuels, land and water. The only meat served—to prevent a total “culture shock” at some accounts, Allman says—was chicken raised without antibiotics, a concern that’s gaining traction, especially with customers in the healthcare dining world.
“It was basically a menu with a lot of vegetarian foods and super foods for all the different concepts within each account,” says Allman, adding that many items were also vegan and gluten-free.
Along with the food, information and education was on the table at Food Day, giving the event a kind of health-fair feel.
“We put a focus on healthier eating and educating our guests on why we should start to introduce more plant-based food items into our diets, why we eat so much meat in the first place and just getting the conversation started,” Allman says.
There was a lot of buy-in and positive feedback from attendees, and Allman plans to incorporate more veggie-centric items into everyday menus and look into serving only antibiotic-free chicken at all accounts.
However, “we can’t really throw all of these changes at our customers so quickly,” Allman adds. “We’re in the retail business as well so we have to be smart about how we approach it. This way, people feel more open and free to introduce new plant-based and vegetarian items into their diet.”
Overall, though, the day was about the food, which included such items as a veggie burger inspired by Indian street food, stir-fries featuring the antibiotic-free chicken, Thai red curry with tofu, flatbreads with roasted vegetables, falafel, a dessert made with chickpeas and more.
“This day highlighted all these healthier, more earth-friendly menu items in a fun, exciting way,” Allman says. “We’re a culinary company and we’re able to get very creative.”