BOSTON — Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grains Store and Visitors Center and Vapiano were among the winners in the fourth 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.
“Whole grains have increasingly become the norm — the default — everywhere you look, and nothing illustrates this better than the pioneers and pacesetters who enter the Whole Grains Challenge,” said Cynthia Harriman, director of food and nutrition strategies for the W.G.C. and Oldways, its parent organization. “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.”
For the first time ever, two categories saw a tie for first place, and, for only the second time, a grand prize was awarded.
The grand prize winner was Flik Independent Schools, a division of Chartwells/Compass. Based in Rye Brook, N.Y., Flik made the Whole Grains Challenge an official element of its “Be-A-Star” initiative, designed to recognize unit directors and their staff for nutritionally-balanced meal planning.
Winners in the 8 categories were:
• Fast casual/family dining: Vapiano. The W.G.C. said Boston-based Vapiano was recognized for its fresh, house-made pastas that include a variety of “sauce-catching, mouth-pleasing shapes,” as well as their whole grain spaghetti and whole grain fusilli that is featured in its custom-made pasta dishes.
• Fine dining: Franklin Southie. This small, neighborhood restaurant in the Boston area features fresh, seasonal ingredients and healthy whole grains. Among the items on the menu are hearty faro Brussels sprout ragout and red quinoa salad with cherries, almonds, spinach and feta.
• College and University (tie): Jewish Theological Seminary and Mason Dining at George Mason University. At the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, October menus showcased a wide variety of whole grain options, including cheese and corn fritters, black barley risotto with charred tomatoes and spiced edamame, and wild rice pancakes with cinnamon crème fraiche. At Mason Dining in Fairfax, Va., the food court featured whole grains in everything from the Asian cuisine station to grab-and-go options. Specific items included curried quinoa salad with vegetables, a tabouleh salad made with bulgur, and oatmeal.
• Quick serve: Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grains Store and Visitors Center. The store and visitors center in Milwaukie, Ore., features a variety of whole grain options such as Swiss-style muesli, organic Scottish oatmeal or organic thick rolled oats.
• K-12 Public Schools: Holton Public Schools. The W.G.C. recognized Holton Public Schools in Holton, Mich., for many new whole grain options as well as the opportunity to sample and learn about whole grains at open house events.
• K-12 Private Schools (tie): The Park School (Brooklandville, Md.) and The Village Community School (New York). The W.G.C. recognized Park School for offering a cooking demo for students to enjoy, as well as for bringing in a registered dietitian to teach a full class on whole grains. The Village Community School featured whole grains daily in selections at both breakfast and lunch.
• Workplace: American Express — World Financial Center. The W.G.C. said American Express showcased a wide array of whole grain options, including 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. In addition, Eurest Dining Services, which manages the location, held a raffle where one person won a whole grain cookbook.
• Other: — The Abbey Food Service Group. Providing whole grain products for more than 20 years to schools and institutions in Vermont and New Hampshire, The Abbey Food Service Group won the “wild card” category by eliminating all refined grain choices in every food category except pizza. The group also provided its staff of more than 300 with custom “Just Ask for Whole Grains” buttons to wear during the entire month of October.
Winners will receive a framed medal commemorating their success and whole grain prizes donated by members of the Whole Grains Council.