he State University of New York (SUNY) at Cortland Dining Services is posting real-time nutrition and allergen information on its website and digital signage at campus eateries.
Nutritional information on the digital signs and website includes serving size, calories per serving, fat, sodium, carbohydrates, fiber and protein. Identified allergens include eggs, milk, soy and gluten. Symbols on the digital signs alert students to healthy food choices and gluten-friendly products.
The symbol for a healthy food choice is a white “H” with a red circle behind it.
Dining Services rolled out the nutrition and allergen program last August on its website and in Neubig Dining residential facility and then expanded it to other campus dining locations. A new residential facility, The Bistro, to be located inside the new Student Life Center currently under construction, will feature the enhancements when it opens in January 2015.
Dining Services began work on the program when the 2011 and 2012 NACUFS surveys both showed nutritional content and variety of healthy menu choices increasing in importance to students.
“Dining Services offers a large variety of healthy foods,” says Bill McNamara, director of dining services. “But we do find that what students define and choose as healthy and what is actually healthy is not necessarily the same thing.”
As delighted as most were at seeing the nutritional information available on the digital signs, for some it turned to shock as they didn’t know how unhealthy their choices were, McNamara adds.
“Having the nutritional and allergen information on the digital signs and on the website is not only helping to educate students and keep them safe from an allergic reaction, but it’s helping us create more nutritional menus,” he says.
To qualify as a healthy choice, a serving must contain less than or equal to 15 percent of the daily value for calories, total fat, saturated fat and sodium and greater than or equal to 10 percent of the daily value for at least one of the following: dietary fiber, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron, says Andrea Hart, ASC’s registered nutritionist and dietician.
Gluten-friendly products are marked with a white GF. Following a recent FDA ruling on what it means for labeling a food product as gluten-free, Dining Services renamed Neubig Dining’s Gluten Free Zone as Gluten Friendly Zone. While inputs of food products do not contain gluten, they are processed in a kitchen that is not gluten free and cannot use the title of gluten free.
The Gluten Friendly Zone helps students with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity make better food choices by stocking gluten-friendly foods such as cereal, bread, cookies, pasta, entrees, crackers and other products. A cupboard, refrigerator, toaster and microwave are provided for the sole use of gluter-sensitive diners. Retail dining units also provide gluten-friendly foods.
“This is very novel on campus,” McNamara says. “Most campuses don’t post nutrition information and in retail restaurants they aren’t posting this information up with the food.”