Food Advisory Committee aims for diverse and healthy dining options

by John Howser

In September 2009, a new Medical Center committee, aptly called the Food Advisory Committee, was established at the request of the Medical Center’s senior leadership to evaluate nutritional (food) options available on campus.

The formation of this committee was in part response to a necessary evaluation process for which vendor would inhabit the space that formerly housed McDonald’s. But the Food Committee was also, and perhaps more importantly, established to take a comprehensive look at which on-campus food options are available for Medical Center faculty, staff, students and visitors, and how best to make long-term improvements to a variety of dining options in a manner that will yield positive consequences for everyone.

The Courtyard Café continues to bring a broader selection of healthy menu options and better awareness for customers of nutritional and caloric content.

Members of the Food Advisory Committee, which includes students, physicians, staff and a representative from the Patient Family Advisory Committee, were selected to represent diverse segments and opinions from across the Medical Center. The committee’s responsibility is to evaluate and discuss nutritional options and then make evidence-based recommendations to Medical Center leadership about potential changes that could result in improvements which are in alignment with the institution’s mission for the advancement of health and wellness.

“The Food Advisory Committee continues with its assigned task of performing a thorough analysis of all facets of our on-campus nutritional offerings, such as cost, convenience, throughput and the capability of vendors to partner with the Medical Center on nutritional and wellness initiatives as well as impact to our visitors, students, faculty and staff,” said George DeLong, associate hospital director for Support Services and Supply Chain and chair of the Food Advisory Committee. “Through ongoing analysis, we continue to develop a blueprint that will offer more varied and healthy meal options throughout all of our on-campus eateries.”

Recommendations of the Food Committee have already resulted in changes. Healthy menu items are now highlighted in the Courtyard Café. A new selection of lower-priced items went into effect back in September. In addition, the Courtyard Café continues to bring a broader selection of healthy menu options and better awareness for customers of nutritional and caloric content.

Through its Wellness &You program, the Courtyard Café in the Vanderbilt Clinic now offers a daily, healthy meal option available to faculty and staff at a 25 percent reduced price. An example of the daily healthy lunch option, which typically includes a meat and two side dishes, is on display just inside the cafeteria’s main entrance Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner.

Customers are able to see the portion size for the entrée and that day’s approved healthy side dishes as they enter the venue. The discounted healthy meal option offers a pre-portioned reduced calorie alternative for those seeking a reduced-calorie meal. Elsewhere throughout the Courtyard Café there are healthy food options which are designated by Wellness & You icons.

Ongoing work of the Food Advisory Committee includes developing a strategic plan as it relates to healthy eating and maintaining menu variety, providing more 24/7 venues, reviewing cafeteria offerings as they relate to menu selections and providing additional educational materials at VUMC eating places.



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