The competition was fierce and the judging wasn’t easy, but winners have been chosen in this year’s Whole Grains Challenge, a special awards program for foodservice outlets across America – and beyond. The Whole Grains Challenge rewards restaurants and foodservice establishments for offering at least one healthy and delicious whole grain option on their menus at all times. Click here to see what qualifies as “a whole grain option.”

Meet the Winners of the 2009 Whole Grains Challenge! 

Want to know how this year’s winners beat the competition to take the top prize in each of the ten Challenge categories?  Here’s what impressed the judges:

Catering and Lodging:  Canyon Ranch
Well known for its innovative and holistic approach to health and wellness, Canyon Ranch has long emphasized nutritional intelligence and engaged eating.  Each menu option is a balanced plate of vegetables, protein, healthy fats, and of course, whole grains.  Guests receive full nutrition information packets detailing Canyon Ranch’s nutrition philosophy, priming them for delectable options such as red coconut curry vegetables with brown rice, oatmeal brulee, wild rice crepes, or quinoa and endive salad.

College and University:  Roger Williams University
In addition to making whole grains standard at every culinary station in both the Upper Commons and Baypoint Café locations, Bon Appetit Management Company keeps students at Roger Williams University well-fueled with a plethora of daily whole grain specials as well.

Fast Casual / Family Dining:  The Pump Energy Food
With 6 locations in New York City, this small chain bases their menu on simple, fresh ingredients and healthful preparation.  Serving whole grains is a critical component of their nutrition philosophy, which means long grain brown rice, whole wheat wraps, whole wheat pastas, and home-baked whole wheat pita chips aren’t just options – they’re the only grain options!

Fine Dining:  Our Place Indian Cuisine
This small restaurant transports diners with its use of traditional Indian clay ovens called tandoors.  In addition to using fresh and natural ingredients to create a variety of delicately spiced dishes, Our Place Indian Cuisine makes roti, paratha, aloo paratha, and poori breads from whole wheat flour and bakes them fresh inside clay ovens.

Neighborhood Dining:  Snooze
With two locations in Denver, CO, Snooze focuses on local products and from-scratch recipes made fresh each and every day.  With menu items ranging from the decadent to the traditional, Snooze can wake you up with whole grain pancakes, sandwiches, and more every day of the week.

Healthcare:  East Carolina Heart Institute
Whole grains have been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease, improve the health of carotid arteries, and help maintain healthier blood pressure levels, so it’s no surprise that they appear in almost every menu option served by ECHI Café at East Carolina Heart Institute in Greenville, NC, where the foodservice is run by Aramark.

Workplace:  Cafe Target
From the massive bowls of whole grains at the salad bar and special Target Wellness Wednesday menus, to table tents and full-page signs touting the full flavor of whole grains… Café Target at Target headquarters in Minneapolis wowed us with their entry.  In addition to their Food For Your Well Being week-long healthy food promotion (featuring whole grains, in September, for Whole Grains Month), Bon Appetit’s management of Café Target included a month-long whole grains theme (also in September) and October menu specials such as buckwheat pancakes, free-range turkey and barley burgers, vegetable beef soup with faro, and toasted coconut-banana-cashew brown basmati rice.

K-12 (small schools):  Harwood Union High School in South Duxbury, VT
Harwood Union High School has been making many changes in the past few years, none the least of which has been serving more whole grain options to their seventh- to twelfth-grade students.  Daily offerings include local farm-fresh eggs and chicken, apples from area orchards, and homemade whole grain breads, cookies, and muffins.

K-12 (medium schools):  Orchard View Schools in Muskegon, MI
Students at the Orchard View Schools have a reason to look forward to school this year, namely the district’s new – and completely free – breakfast program, featuring whole grains every day.  Students and parents were educated about this new program and the importance of including whole grains at breakfast, and enjoyed an open house event where samples of whole grain products were given to all attendees.  To keep their kids interested and engaged in healthy eating, Orchard View used health classes as a way to teach the importance of whole grains and health.  Not only did whole grains appear on every school menu, samples of different whole grain products were also given out and students voted for their favorites.

K-12 (large schools):  SchoolFood for New York, NY
Serving an average of 860,000 meals per day, SchoolFood for New York City schools might have the toughest job going.  Featuring whole grains is one way they stretch their budget dollars while providing healthier options for up to 15 unique menus each month.  From breakfast to lunch, in snacks and on Saturdays, SchoolFood makes sure students in the City that Never Sleeps at least have the whole grain energy to keep up with the hustle and bustle.

Runners-Up and Honorable Mentions
Another six school entries fell just short of winning but displayed so much creativity that they deserve special recognition:
K-12 (small):  Willamina School District, OR, runner-up; Amesbury Public Schools, MA, honorable mention
K-12 (medium):  Weston Public Schools, CT, runner-up; De Soto Public Schools, MO, honorable mention
K-12 (large):  Winston Salem / Forsyth County Schools, NC, runner-up; Shelby County Schools, AL, honorable mention


What Did They Win?

Beyond the satisfaction that they’re helping large numbers of people learn that nutritious food can be delicious, winners in each category will receive a variety of whole grain foods to try on their menus.  With the cost of ingredients and foods rising daily, who wouldn’t want cases and cases of free, healthy whole grain breads, grain blends, pizzas, crackers and more?!? Click here to see the list of this year’s fantastic prizes.  Winners also receive handsome certificats and medals worthy of framing, and are added to our Eating Away From Home web page, an important resource for customers looking for restaurants with healthy options.  Special sections for schools and workplace dining halls give recognition to these entrants, too.

Past Winners of the Whole Grains Challenge

The winners of this year’s Challenge join the following trailblazing restaurants and foodservice establishments in setting the stage for increased whole grain consumption:

   2007 Challenge Winners  2008 Challenge Winners
 Quick Serve  Jersey Mike’s  Papa John’s
 Family / Casual  PF Chang’s China Bistro  Boloco
 Fine Dining  Café Modern, Ft Worth TX  Fair Hill Inn, Elkton MD
 Lodging / Catering  FireLake Grill House, Minneapolis  Compass Catering
 K-12 Public Schools  Colorado Springs, CO
 Energy Zone, Fairfax County VA

small – Mattawan MI (Chartwells)
medium – Newtown, CT (Chartwells)
large – Norfolk, VA

 K-12 Private Schools  Milton Academy (Flik)
 Ross School
(award shifted to public schools due to quantity and quality of K-12 entries)
 College / University  Virginia Tech Dining Services
 (Awarded a special Grand Prize)
(award shifted to public schools due to quantity and quality of K-12 entries)
 Workplace  Merck (Flik)  Morgan Stanley (Restaurant Associates)
 Healthcare  HSC Cafeteria
 at West Virginia University Hospital
 Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (Aramark)
 Other  University Village Retirement Center, Tampa  Compass Group,
 special award for Nutrition Month campaign

Interested in planning for the 2010 Whole Grains Challenge?  Great!  For more information, contact Kara Berrini at 617-896-4880 (, or just stay tuned to this page of our web site.  We’ll post information on the 2010 Challenge in May or June of 2010.  Until then, enjoy a sampling of inspiring Challenge entries in our “Best of 2009 Challenge” collection!