Promoting plant-based cuisine on campus

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Photo courtesy of NMU Dining MORE PLANTS, LESS MEAT—During the two-day intensive training, Forward Food culinary specialists like Amy Webster teaches the importance of using more plant-based options and how to implement them in NMU Dining recipes.

Justin Van't Hof

Over 30 full time staff members gathered for a Forward Food Culinary Experience training that teaches ways to include more plant-based and sustainable dining practices at NMU. The training took place at the Northern Center kitchen from Dec. 17 to 19 and offered many new dishes for the staff to add to menus on campus.

“More plant-based options are not only good for the environment, but good for us and delicious as well,” Paul Schoonveld, associate director of NMU Dining said. “We prepared and created more than 70 different dishes over the course of the intensive two-day training, meaning we now have a book of proven recipes to incorporate into our menus.”

The U.S. Humane Society sponsored the Forward Food Culinary Experience training to help promote sustainable and plant- based practices. Since the first training in 2015 at Harvard University, it has been given at over 100 different locations across the country and has introduced new plant-based recipes to over 2,000 full time dining staff.

“The unique thing about NMU Dining is that all of our full time culinary staff was able to participate in this training, whereas many other universities only have the ability to have a portion of staff participate,” Schoonveld said. “The ability to include all culinary staff strengthens the training and our ability to translate it into a variety of our dining restaurants.” 

NMU Dining uses a number of sustainable practices to help cut down on harmful waste. Some of these include composting, donating excess food to the local warming shelter and purchasing disposable plate’s utensils and cups made from recyclable materials.

“When we designed the new Northern Lights Dining, we created the Parsnip concept, which solely serves vegan and vegetarian offerings. We have experienced incredible growth in the popularity of the menu items at Parsnip and the other concepts that serve plant-based items throughout The Lights,” Schoonveld said.

Many vegan students rely on the alternative options that the dining halls have to offer on campus, for example the Parsnip station. With the opening of the Northern Lights Dining, more plant-based cuisine is available to students. Junior digital cinema major Alexandra Bayliss took advantage of the plant-based options while living on campus.

“The addition of Parsnip compared to the Marketplace not really having many vegan options made it a lot better,” Bayliss said.

For students who have gluten or nut allergies Northern Lights Dining has an allergen room where students have alternative options if nothing else is available. 

“When I lived on campus last year, I had access to the allergen room and the fridge in Northern Lights Dining so if there was something else I wanted to eat I knew I could get something out of there,” Bayliss said.

With increased popularity of plant-based diets, the implementation of the recipes and training from the Forward Food Culinary Experience will help NMU dining provide even more dining options to vegan students. 

“The training included practical applications, easy to follow recipes, and flavor profiles that were developed to target colleges and universities,” Schoonveld said. “The Forward Food Culinary Experience captured all of that and we can’t wait to share what we’ve learned with students this semester.”