This semester the Marist Dining Hall became the first REAL certified college dining operation in New York State! This certification is a huge accomplishment for Marist Dining, and is great recognition for the nutrition and sustainability accomplishments at Marist College. Only seven universities across the United Stated, including Stanford, are recognized at REAL certified, so this achievement is no small feat.
What is REAL certification, and why does it matter? REAL is an acronym that stands for responsible, epicurean, agricultural, leadership. Essentially, in order to be certified, institutions need to reach certain culinary standards in regard to nutrition, preparation, food sourcing, and food options. The certification is based on a point system which focuses on criteria such as sourcing locally grown food, having healthy options available, and making commitments to bettering the environment.
Other priorities for REAL certification include maximizing whole grains, vegetables, fruits, cooking from scratch and water consumption while also utilizing healthier oils, sustainable sea foods, and supply chain transparency. There needs to be moderate uses of starches and red meat and appropriate portion sizes. Finally, minimal added sugars, deep fried food, sodium, and sugar-sweetened beverages should be available.
Marist was awarded the certification based on their achievements in prioritizing nutrition and sustainability within the Dining Hall. As students, we do not always know what goes on “behind the scenes” and where our food comes from. Luckily for us, the Marist Dining team is consistently working to make the Dining Hall the best it can be.
Here is some more detail on criteria Marist Dining scored well in for each REAL category:
R-Responsible (Food provides nutritional benefit):
- Vegetarian/vegan options available, including vegetarian soup and deli special
- Grain Bar offers a variety of choices that rotate
- Abundance of fresh raw and cooked produce
- Whole grain breads, pastas and wraps served daily
E-Epicurean (Food preparation should enhance the quality and experience):
- The majority of sauces are made in-house
- Healthy plant-based oils are used to prepare food
- Limited fried food options
- Food is made from scratch by in-house chefs
A-Agricultural (Food should come from the safest and highest quality sources):
- Over 52% of product is purchased from local and regional farms, including marinara sauce, milk, eggs and produce
- Eggs are cage free
- Fish is marine stewardship council (MSC) certified, meaning it is caught responsibly
- Beef is local and grass-fed and chicken is antibiotic free with no added hormones
- Coffee is fairtrade
L-Leadership (Dining operation educates its customers on how to be a responsible eater):
- The separated hydration station encourages drinking water instead of sugary beverages
- Nutritional information is available on the menus at each station
- My Zone kitchen provides meals and snacks for students with allergies
- Campus dietitian does programming every month and is available for consultations
- Any leftover food is donated to the local community through Food Recovery Network
- Chef Anthony uses LeanPath to track how we dispose of food in order to help limit food waste
- Food leftovers in the dish room are broken down through an EnviroPure food digester
With this certification Marist students can be REALly confident that the food they are eating is friendly to the environment and their health. With this certification, Marist will continue responsible and innovative ways to keep us students both happy and healthy.
By: Mariah Christian