W.G.C. recognizes Whole Grains Challenge winners

by Eric Schroeder
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BOSTON — Canyon Ranch and Cafe Target were among the winners in the third annual Whole Grains Challenge sponsored by the Whole Grains Council. As part of the challenge, the W.G.C. looks for workplace cafeterias, hospitals, restaurants, hotels, and schools serving at least one whole grain option daily, then awards extra points to those augmenting their dishes with creative educational promotions about whole grains.

"We hear a lot about what’s wrong with restaurant and school food," said Cynthia Harriman, director of food and nutrition strategies for the W.G.C. and Oldways, its parent organization. "We wanted to highlight what’s right, by telling the stories of those who really understand how to combine nutritious with delicious. Other food service outlets need to follow this road, to give Americans what they want and need."

Winners in the 10 categories were:

• Catering and lodging: Canyon Ranch. According to the W.G.C., each menu option at Canyon Ranch is a balanced plate of vegetables, protein, healthy fats and whole grains. Guests receive full nutrition information packets detailing Canyon Ranch’s nutrition philosophy.

• College and University: Roger Williams University. In addition to making whole grains standard at every culinary station in both the Upper Commons and Baypoint Cafe locations, Bon Appetit Management Co. provides students at Roger Williams University with a plethora of daily whole grain specials, the W.G.C. noted.

• Fast casual/family dining: The Pump Energy Food. The W.G.C. said Pump has six locations in New York City, and bases its menu on simple, fresh ingredients and healthful preparation. Serving whole grains is a critical component of Pump’s nutrition philosophy, which means long grain brown rice, whole wheat wraps, whole wheat pastas, and home-baked whole wheat pita chips are key grain options.

• Fine dining: Our Place Indian Cuisine. This restaurant uses traditional Indian clay ovens called tandoors. In addition to using fresh and natural ingredients to create a variety of delicately spiced dishes, the restaurant’s roti, paratha, aloo paratha, and poori bread are made from whole wheat flour and baked fresh inside clay ovens.

• Neighborhood dining: Snooze. Snooze operates two locations in Denver focusing on local products and from-scratch recipes, including whole grain pancakes.

• Health care: East Carolina Heart Institute. The W.G.C. recognized East Carolina Heart Institute for using whole grains in almost every menu option served by ECHI Café at East Carolina Heart Institute in Greenville, N.C., where the food service is run by Aramark.

• Workplace: Cafe Target. The W.G.C. said Target "wowed" it with its entry, which included 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. The company also offered a month-long whole grains theme 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): South Duxbury, Vt. The W.G.C. recognized Harwood Union High School for 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 bread, cookies, and muffins.

• K-12 (medium schools): Muskegon, Mich. Orchard View Schools received this year’s award thanks to a 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 experienced an open house event where samples of whole grain products were given to all attendees. In addition, to keep students interested and engaged in healthy eating, Orchard View used health classes as a way to teach the importance of whole grains and health.

• K-12 (large schools): New York. Despite serving an average of 860,000 meals per day, SchoolFood for New York City schools found a way to provide healthier options for up to 15 unique menus each month, according to the W.G.C.

Winners will receive a framed medal commemorating their success and valuable whole grain prizes donated by members of the Whole Grains Council.

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