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Boston, MA – November 30, 2010
With its 4th Annual Whole Grains Challenge, the Whole Grains Council and Oldways salute the chefs, dining directors, and food service operators who are helping to bring whole grain goodness to the center of the plate.
The non-proﬁt Whole Grains Council reviewed scores of entries from workplace cafeterias, restaurants, universities, and schools serving at least one whole grain option daily, including those adding a dash of creative and educational whole grain promotions. At the end of the month-long competition, ten foodservice winners dominated the ﬁeld.
“Whole grains have increasingly become the norm — the default — everywhere you look,” said Cynthia Harriman, Director of Food and Nutrition Strategies for the Whole Grains Council and for Oldways, its parent organization, “and nothing illustrates this better than the pioneers and pace-setters who enter the Whole Grains Challenge. Each year the whole grain oﬀerings become more creative, the promotions are more eye-catching, and time after time, we’re proud to showcase the many ways nutrition and great taste can be united on a menu.”
In fact, the quality of this year’s entries so impressed the judges that — for the ﬁrst time ever — two categories saw a tie for ﬁrst place. And, for only the second time in Challenge history, a Grand Prize was awarded.
The Grand Prize winner was Flik Independent Schools, a division of Chartwells / Compass. Based in Rye Brook, NY, Flik serves over 120 schools with a carefully developed food and nutrition philosophy that makes up the core of their “Eat. Learn. Live.” program for private and independent schools. This year, Flik made the Whole Grains Challenge an oﬃcial element of their “Be-A-Star” initiative, designed to recognize unit directors and their staﬀ for nutritionally-balanced meal planning. In recognition of their eﬀorts to increase awareness of and participation in this year’s Whole Grains Challenge, and for their considerable eﬀorts on behalf of healthier school meals, Flik Independent Schools has been chosen for this top honor.
And how did the rest of this year’s winners wow the judges to take top prize in the various Challenge categories? Here’s what it took:
Fast Casual / Family Dining: Vapiano
With 9 locations nationwide and over 60 restaurants in 16 countries around the world, Vapiano’s fresh and fast casual dining is a welcome take on traditional Italian food. Visitors to the downtown Boston, MA location that entered this year’s Challenge can enjoy watching their made-to-order hand tossed pizzas and gourmet salads being prepared right in front of them. Vapiano’s fresh, house-made pastas include a variety of sauce-catching, mouth-pleasing shapes, and their whole grain spaghetti and whole grain fusilli can be featured in any of their custom-made pasta dishes.
Fine Dining: Franklin Southie
This small, neighborhood restaurant is one of three “sisters” in the Franklin Café family, all located in and around Boston, MA. At the Franklin Southie location, Chef Asia Mei combines fresh, seasonal ingredients and healthy whole grains into dishes that both satisfy and surprise the palate. Whether your eye is caught by their warm and hearty farro Brussels sprout ragout or their cool and delightful red quinoa salad with cherries, almonds, spinach, and feta, whole grains shine in the center of these dishes.
K-12 Public Schools: Holton Public Schools (Holton, MI)
In a rural district with more than 70% economically disadvantaged students, Holton Public Schools and Chartwells serve two or three meals a day during the school year and also during the summer months. This year saw many new whole grain options added to the already stacked menus, including many low-sugar, low-calorie oﬀerings. Back to school open houses provided great opportunities to educate both students and parents about whole grains, including samples to try and surveys to ﬁll out. Items with the highest scores were added to breakfast menus, and every parent or student who ﬁlled out a survey had their name entered to win a free child’s bike. Plans are already underway to use this year’s Challenge win to further educate the school board on the importance of living a healthy lifestyle, and an after-school whole grain cooking class for the middle school students is already in the works.
“Other”: The Abbey Food Service Group
Providing food service management to schools and institutions in Vermont and New Hampshire, The Abbey Food Service Group was the hands-down favorite to win the “wild card” category. They have provided whole grain products for over 20 years, and earlier this year eliminated all reﬁned grain choices in every food category except for pizza, where they continue to oﬀer the choice of both. In addition to providing parents and students with nutrition education handouts and recipes to try at home, students who sampled various whole grains during a week-long promotion were entered into a drawing for custom-made T-shirts. The Abbey Group also provided their 300+ staﬀ members with custom “Just Ask for Whole Grains” buttons to wear during the entire month of October.
Quick Serve: Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grains Store and Visitors Center
As founding members of the Whole Grains Council, it comes as no surprise that Bob’s Red Mill features whole grains on the menu at their Whole Grains Store and Visitors Center in Milwaukie, OR. There, visitors and shoppers alike can pause and enjoy a variety of whole grain options such as their famous Swiss-style muesli, organic Scottish oatmeal or organic thick rolled oats, or any of their savory soups served with a choice of whole wheat roll, rye roll, 10 grain roll, or corn bread. Just about any sandwich can be served on any of their in-house baked whole grain breads, and their pastry case is stocked with a daily fresh assortment of whole grain goodies. The great folks at Bob’s are already planning to donate their entire prize package to the Oregon Food Bank to be split up and shared by area families in need.
Workplace: American Express — World Financial Center
American Express at the World Financial Center showcased a wide array of whole grain options, such as sweet chili glazed salmon with Himalayan red rice, a Mediterranean grain bar, and daily oﬀerings such as whole wheat ﬂatbread pizzas and quinoa at their salad bars. The café provided nutritional handouts on the beneﬁts of whole grains, and sold small packages of various whole grains, with recipes, for café patrons to make at home. As an added incentive to get customers excited about whole grains, Eurest Dining Services (part of Compass USA) which manages the location capped oﬀ their impressive Challenge entry by holding a raﬄe where one lucky person won a whole grain cookbook.
College and University (tie): Jewish Theological Seminary AND Mason Dining at George Mason University
At the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, NY, October menus showcased a wide variety of whole grain options. Students dining at the Flik-managed JTS Dining Hall chose from sumptuous menu oﬀerings like cheese and corn fritters, black barley risotto with charred tomatoes and spiced edamame, or a breakfast of wild rice pancakes with cinnamon crème fraiche.
At Sodexo-managed Mason Dining at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, the Food Court stocked whole grains in everything from the main features at the Asian cuisine station to Grab & Go options for busy students in a rush. Whether students enjoyed the curried quinoa salad with vegetables, a warm bowl of oatmeal at breakfast, or tabouleh salad made with bulgur, there was always something whole grain to satisfy. As an additional fun element to their menu eﬀorts, Mason Dining’s promotional eﬀorts included a recipe contest, a consumption and variety tracking challenge, and a dietitian dressed in a whole grain costume passing out whole grain samples on Halloween.
K-12 Private Schools (tie): The Park School (Brooklandville, MD) AND The Village Community School (New York, NY)
The Flik-managed Park School in Brooklandville, MD reported great success with their eﬀorts featuring whole grains as part of eating healthier overall. To top oﬀ their menu options such as chicken and wild rice soup and cheese quesadillas in whole wheat tortillas, Park School also oﬀered a cooking demo for the students to enjoy, and brought in a registered dietitian to teach a full class on whole grains.
The Village Community School in New York, NY (also Flik-managed) featured whole grains daily in selections at both breakfast and lunch. Reﬁned grains have been completely eliminated in all kid-friendly favorites such as hamburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches, and the management team from Flik Independent Schools reports the students have responded well, not once asking for alternatives. Both heartened and encouraged by this, the team is already planning ways to continue their focus on whole grains.
Two additional school entries fell just short of winning, but displayed so much creativity that they deserve special recognition:
K-12 Public: Maine School of Science and Math in Limestone, ME, honorable mention
K-12 Private: Episcopal High School in Alexandria, VA, honorable mention
Winners will receive an attractive framed medal commemorating their success and valuable whole grain prizes generously donated by members of the Whole Grains Council. “This is the traditional season of giving thanks and being charitable, so it’s wonderful to share our members’ many great whole grain options with schools, restaurants, and other foodservice operations,” said Kara Berrini, Program Manager, Whole Grains Council, who organized this year’s competition. Prize donors included Barilla, Bob’s Red Mill, Caravan Ingredients / CSM, ConAgra Mills, Dr. Kracker, General Mills, HomeFree, Indian Harvest Specialtifoods, Lotus Foods, Minute Rice / Riviana, Partners Crackers, Nature’s Hand, New England Natural Bakers, Red River / Smucker’s Natural Foods, Sunnyland Mills, and Wheat Montana Farms and Bakery.
Foodservice operations who missed this year’s contest are invited to start planning now for the October 2011 competition.
Please contact Alison Clancy (firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-896-4888) for more information, including hi-res graphics.