BOSTON — Texas and the eastern United States appear to be strongholds of whole grains menu and marketing innovation, at least based on winners of the fifth annual Whole Grains Challenge. The competition is an initiative of Boston-based Oldways and its Whole Grains Council.

The competition is aimed at encouraging dining and food service outlets to develop and promote “original, creative and compelling” whole grain menu options.

Eight of 10 winners in this year’s competition were either from Texas or the eastern United States.
Oldways said winners were selected both by the creativity of the menu offerings as well as the innovativeness of how whole grain choices are promoted.

Cynthia Harriman, director of food and nutrition strategies for the Whole Grains Council and Oldways, said five years after the award was created, submissions are growing in number and creativity.

“Not only did we receive a record number of submissions but the programs and recipes developed to increase whole grain consumption are inspiring, delicious and nutritious,” she said.
Winners of the nine categories were:

• K-12 Public, Osseo School District, Maple Grove, Minn.
• K-12 Private, Winsor School, Boston
• K-12 Private, honorable mention, The Park School, Baltimore
• Quick Serve, Snap Kitchen, Houston and Austin, Texas
• Fast casual/family, Casa de Luz, Austin
• Health care (tie), St. Peter’s Hospital, Helena, Mont., and Westlake Medical Center, Austin
• Workplace, Eurest Dining, division of Compass Group
• Lodging/catering, White Horse Village, New Town Square, Pa.
• At large, Atwaters, Baltimore.

Winners were cited for a wide range of actions that won over the judges. For instance, the Whole Grains Council said Snap Kitchen is known for “whole grain comfort food makeovers” and specifically mentioned a quinoa “fried rice.”

“Snap reinvents favorites for a healthy and yummy alternative,” the council said.

Quinoa and other ancient grains were mentioned by the council as elements in several of the winning submissions.

The Eurest award for workplace dining was not given to a single site but rather to several through the mid-Atlantic states.

“These cafeteria locations exploded with whole grain options and incentives, from beautiful displays and free samples with recipe cards, to contests and cool whole grain prizes,” the council said. “We couldn’t pick just one and decided to reward Eurest overall.”

Marketing and promotion examples offered by the council included programs at Syracuse University dubbed “The Daily Grain” and “Try Me.”

“Together with their marketing efforts, the chefs prepared great dishes, like cheesy quinoa pilaf with spinach,” the council said.

The Osseo school district was credited not only with offering whole grains menu options but also for the district’s outreach.

The council explained the district “reached out to locally-based Cargill to help them develop delicious recipes. This partnership, a great model for industry/school joint efforts, spoke volumes about the staff’s dedication to deliver whole grain foods that the kids would eat and enjoy. Now baking their own, from-scratch dinner rolls and French breads, this unique school cafeteria has gone above and beyond.”

A number of grain-based foods companies were among supporters of the annual competition, which included: Barilla Foodservice, Blue Star Farms, Bob's Red Mill, Caravan Ingredients, ConAgra Mills, Dr. Kracker, McKee Foods, General Mills, Homefree, Indian Harvest, Lotus Foods, Riviana, Sunnyland Mills.