Food service: How to implement operationally friendly menu items

Amherst / MA. (np) Nestlé Professional, Wholesome Crave and The University of Massachusetts Dining Program – UMass Dining – announce the launch of a first-of-its-kind partnership that offers college and university foodservice operators turn-key tips, fully-developed recipes and workshops, and collaboration to help speed the introduction of more sustainable, delicious plant-forward offerings on campus menus. The «Purpose-Driven Plant-Based Incubator» was developed in collaboration with four-time James Beard Award Winner Chef Michel Nischan of Wholesome Crave and the culinary team at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, the number one U.S. college dining program for six years running according to the Princeton Review.

For 2023, more than 12 other universities have signed up to participate with the Incubator, including the University of Minnesota Duluth, Kent State University, Vanderbilt University, the University of California, Santa Barbara, Montreal’s Concordia University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. With the current launch partners, the program has the ability to impact over 500,000 student meals a day.

«At Nestlé Professional, we’re committed to helping our partners address the new realities of the foodservice landscape. This «Purpose-Driven Plant-Based Incubator» does just that – it showcases plant-forward recipes while providing guidance on how to reduce operators’ and students’ carbon footprints,» said Perry Miele, president and CEO of Nestlé Professional. «In addition to the Playbook we’re offering, the Incubator program will include hands-on workshops and collaboration to help partners customize their own journey, no matter if they’re a small college with a single dining hall or an entire university system with dozens of foodservice venues.»

The new Incubator, modeled after the «UMass Dining» plant-forward menu program, was created in response to foodservice providers reporting increased demand for a wider variety of globally inspired, flavor-driven, plant-forward options. The program addresses how best to develop flavorful plant-forward recipes, streamline dish preparation, introduce cooking techniques that enhance flavor, work within budget constraints and simplify operational challenges. There is also the ability to inform students and operators about the emissions footprint of their meal via on-menu carbon labeling. The Incubator is intended to be a space to share insight and knowledge amongst existing and new partners, and to ideate and test new opportunities, recipes and approaches to successfully accelerate the adoption of more plant-based options.

«The Plant-Based Incubator aligns our partners’ shared values to make delicious, plant-forward menu options affordable and doable, while leveraging the power of food to make the world a better place for everyone,» said Chef Michel Nischan, founder of Wholesome Crave. «At Wholesome Crave, we believe that everyone, regardless of race, age, ethnicity, or income has the right to eat delicious, nutritious food. Our support for our non-profit Wholesome Wave, and ground-breaking partnerships like this innovative incubator project make that happen.»

On November 3, menu items from the Playbook were debuted at an event hosted by Incubator founders on the UMass Amherst campus. Members of the university student body, faculty and the general public were invited to try the new dishes for the first time and share feedback.

«Studies done at the «UMass Dining Living Laboratory» find that Gen Z students increase consumption of plant forward ingredients when incorporated with authentic global recipes,» said Ken Toong, Executive Director of Auxiliary Enterprises at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. «This latest initiative demonstrates how we can continue to use our culinary expertise and state of the art facilities to drive our industry by inspiring students to enjoy a plant forward diet now and into the future.»

Food production accounts for roughly 25 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Recent research has shown that communities and people shifting toward more plant-forward diets can have big effects on climate impact.

«Students, faculty and staff have been asking for more plant-forward options, so we are thrilled to bring them delicious new menu offerings created in collaboration with James Beard award-winning Chef Michel Nischan and our partners at Nestlé Professional,» said Jeff Weissinger, Assistant Director of Residential Operations at Vanderbilt University.