Plant-based meal training to be featured at culinary summit

Last year’s plant-based training for Sodexo employees at the United World College-USA will be featured during this year’s Menus of Change Leadership Summit from July 22-Aug. 26.

Menus of Change is an initiative of The Culinary Institute of America and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The organizations are working toward integrating optimal nutrition and public health, environmental stewardship and restoration, and social responsibility concerns within the food-service industry and the culinary profession.

Due to a greater demand for more vegan options, the Sodexo staff at UWC-USA spent two days learning new plant-based recipes from two chefs with the Humane Society of the United States. The vegan dishes were served during lunch and dinner both days.

Rob Morasco, senior director of culinary development for Sodexo, will be among presenters at the summit. The discussion will focus on the best way to introduce a plant-forward menu initiative in a non-commercial setting to maximize organizational engagement and outcomes.

Aida Samaniego, food services director at UWC-USA, believes the UWC-USA training was chosen for its success in reducing the quantity of meat Sodexo has been purchasing.

“Both Sodexo and the Humane Society of the United States have been continuously following up with me to check what kind of impact the training had on both our cooks and students, as well as our decisions in menu design,” said Samaniego, who will participate in the summit. “After the training, I made a goal for us to lower our meat purchases by 10 percent.  Our monthly purchases went down by 9 to 13 percent each month year-over-year.  Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 shut-down, I was not able to get a full year’s data.”

In addition to a vegan station, Sodexo randomly substitutes vegetarian dishes for meat at its main station.

“We decided to make changes randomly rather than making it an event, as in ‘Meatless Mondays’ so that we could achieve our goal seamlessly without scaring away anyone who is apprehensive about vegetarian foods,” she said.

The staff also changed ingredients for some of its dessert recipes to make them vegan.

“This doesn’t do anything for our meat-purchasing goal, but we are able to give our vegan students more dessert options,” Samaniego said.


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