Consumers say they want food that is healthy, sustainable and ethically sourced, but figuring out which foods on the market support this goal is not easy. As a result, chefs and the foodservice industry are leading the dining public to profoundly change the landscape of foodservice.
One way your operation can contribute to this positive change is to follow The Principles of Healthy, Sustainable Menus as laid out by the Menus of Change Annual Report, an initiative of the Culinary Institute of America and the Harvard School of Public Health. These principles offer a guide to optimal menu design and innovations for future culinary development. This industry is full of creative entrepreneurs with the opportunity to reframe how we think about food in the United States.
Some of the 14 principles seem simple, yet the industry veered away from these natural avenues to farming and the supply chain over the past decades. Widespread use of these basic principles would impact people’s health and the health of the planet. Two examples of how the foodservice industry can help include the following:
- Buy fresh and seasonal, local and global. For chefs, peak-of-season fruits and vegetables can help create unbeatable flavors and marketing opportunities. When designing menus, draw ideas and inspiration from local farmers and their crops during the growing season as well as the varieties and growing seasons of more distant regions. The advantages of local sourcing include working with smaller producers who may be more willing to experiment with varieties that bring interest and greater flavor to the table. A focus on local foods also can play an important role in building community by encouraging school children, retailers, media, and others to learn how to grow food, steward the land, and adopt healthier eating habits. But designing menus to draw on in-season fruits and vegetables from more distant farms also is a key strategy for bringing fresh flavors to menus throughout the year.
- Reward better agricultural practices. Sourcing sustainably grown foods is complex, but there is one important rule of thumb: the environmental cost of food is largely determined by how it is produced. The best farms and ranches protect and restore natural systems through efficient management practices, such as choosing crops well-suited for their local growing conditions, minimizing use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and avoiding the use of groundwater for irrigation. Better-managed farms sometimes qualify for organic or other sustainable-farming certifications. But many – including smaller farms – simply adopt better practices. One such practice is livestock raised without the routine use of antibiotics. The most powerful strategies for supporting better farms include aligning menus to emphasize fresh foods during the peak of their local growing season and shifting purchases toward farms that have responsible management programs.
At entegra, we work with suppliers and manufacturers who seek to create a more sustainable future through contracts that include a Supply Chain Code of Conduct and a commitment to animal welfare and sustainable sourcing programs.
To view the whole list of Menus of Change principles, visit www.menusofchange.org.
Entegra Procurement Services regularly publishes blog posts on food trends and innovations in food services. Entegra is more than a group purchasing organization (GPO): Our team of procurement specialists implement strategic sourcing to bring the most value to your business. We help our clients, in many segments ranging from the healthcare supply chain to restaurant supply, to cut costs and consolidate their portfolios.