Culinary News from The Culinary Institute of America

College and University Leaders Convene to Advance Plant-Forward Menus and a National Research Agenda for Food Systems Change

Stanford, CA – On October 26, 62 representatives from colleges and universities across the United States gathered for the inaugural summit of a groundbreaking initiative: the Menus of Change University Research Collaborative (MCURC). The initiative was founded and is jointly led by Stanford University, one of the world’s leading research institutions, and The Culinary Institute of America (CIA), the world’s premier culinary college. Today marks the launch of the official website that will, over time, provide downloadable resources such as recipes, toolkits, and training materials, along with findings from multi-site, interdisciplinary research around topics such as food waste, healthier beverages, values-based purchasing metrics, and reimagining the role of animal and plant proteins on American menus.

An outgrowth of the CIA-Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health initiative, Menus of Change®: The Business of Healthy, Sustainable Menus, the new Collaborative seeks to accelerate the adoption of the 24 Menus of Change Principles of Healthy, Sustainable Menus by leveraging the unique opportunities of the higher education sector for advancing culinary literacy and nudging young adults towards healthier food and lifestyle choices. The principles are evidence-based, comprehensive guidelines, such as Lead with Menu Messaging Around Flavor and Make Whole, Intact Grains the New Norm. A companion goal of the Collaborative is to foster greater networking and insight around interdisciplinary, food-systems level research, including the use of campus dining facilities as living laboratories to test strategies for behavior change.

Formed over the last year by a core group of campus dining representatives and faculty from select institutions, the Collaborative has grown to a total of 118 members representing 37 colleges and universities consisting of academic faculty, dining directors, executive chefs, and senior university administrators. Membership ranges from Ivy League schools to larger state universities, as well as supporting ex officio membership from a variety of organizations outside of higher education.

Participating Institutions:

The Collaborative Was Founded and Is Jointly Led by:

  • The Culinary Institute of America
  • R&DE Stanford Dining
  • Stanford School of Medicine

University Members:

  • Boston College
  • Cornell University
  • Duke University
  • Harvard University
  • Kansas State University
  • Northeastern University
  • Oregon State University
  • Princeton University
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • University of California, Office of the President
  • University of California, Riverside
  • University of California, San Diego
  • University of California, San Francisco
  • University of California, Santa Barbara
  • University of Colorado, Boulder
  • University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • University of Montana
  • University of New Hampshire
  • University of North Texas
  • University of Notre Dame
  • University of Southern California
  • University of Washington
  • Yale University

Academic Members (Participating Faculty):

  • Chatham University
  • Colorado State University
  • Drexel University
  • Hotel Management School Maastrict
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Lebanon Valley College
  • The New School
  • New York University
  • Queens College (City University of New York)
  • University of California, Davis
  • University of Vermont

Ex Officio Members:

  • Google
  • Jamie Oliver Food Foundation
  • U.S. Navy
  • U.S. Olympic Training Center

In addition to facilitating dialogue integrating these different perspectives within and between campuses, the leaders at the three-day summit focused on identifying the top educational materials and research projects the group would develop in the year ahead. The meeting included meals that exemplify the culinary creativity of plant-forward dining experiences inspired by Menus of Change, a sponsor engagement forum to discuss opportunities for growers and manufacturers to partner with members, and a series of breakout sessions with Stanford students to help translate research ideas into action. Participants also toured the Stanford University campus and its dining facilities, as well as the Teaching Kitchen @ Stanford where its culinary programs are inspiring change through food education.

The meeting also included a tour of the Google Food Program’s operations at Google headquarters in Mountain View, highlighting the existing CIA-Google partnership. The MCURC will work in tandem with the new CIA-Google Culinary Innovation and World Flavors Lab now in development at Google’s Mountain View campus. This applied research facility will function as a real-world testing ground to evaluate an entire matrix of hypotheses on how best to implement the Menus of Change principles in high-volume foodservice.

“This innovative collaboration presents an unprecedented opportunity for real-world impact,” said Christopher Gardner, nutrition scientist and professor of medicine at Stanford. “The target audience is bright young adults at universities across the country, many of whom will soon be new parents and/or the next generation of CEOs of major companies. We will be engaging them in research opportunities regarding their own food environment and eating practices, and crowdsourcing their creativity for solutions to the broken food system. With the initial 25+ universities on board we will be conducting multi-site studies that include geographic representation from across the country, public and private institutions, and a spectrum of dining venues that exist across these campuses. The volume and richness of real-time data to be collected will likely provide breakthrough solutions to current national and global food-related crises that lie at the intersection of human health and the health of the environment.”

“While never losing our industry’s heritage around special-occasion hospitality, American foodservice is robustly picking up the consumer-driven challenge of creating more plant-forward, everyday menus—for our health, and the health of the planet,” said Greg Drescher, vice president of strategic initiatives and industry leadership for The Culinary Institute of America. “We are excited about our new partnership with Stanford and the other member institutions and organizations in MCURC to foster greater innovation in the university sector around these imperatives. Our new Protein Flip infographic is proof-positive of the opportunities to combine insights from chefs, scientists, and leaders in public health and sustainability, all coming together in a delicious strategy for change that is resonating on university campuses, and beyond.”

“At Stanford, we believe that the same focus on rigorous inquiry and innovation that takes place in the academic departments is just as important when it comes to feeding the minds and bodies of our students,” said Shirley Everett, senior associate vice provost for Stanford University Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE). “I am so grateful to our partners at The Culinary Institute of America, Stanford faculty, and in other universities and organizations across the country for their commitment to leadership in this area. This groundbreaking new enterprise will give us critical insights into nutrition and wellness and shape the way universities engage with growers, suppliers, and manufacturers. This allows us to study, along with faculty and a multidisciplinary array of other experts, ways to deliver healthier, more sustainable menu choices and to support students’ development of lifelong, healthy eating habits.”

“As the dining program for one of the leading research and academic institutions in the world, we are committed to sharing our discoveries and experiences with others in the relentless pursuit of delicious and sustainable food,” said Eric Montell, executive director of R&DE Stanford Dining. “The MCURC offers us tremendous potential for collaboration and sharing among colleges and universities across the country that are, like Stanford, also focused on advancing healthier, more sustainable life-long choices for students. Through this unique initiative, university-based scholars, senior business administrators, dining directors, and executive chefs are coming together to learn from one another and collectively impact the college food system.”

The Menus of Change initiative produces an annual report, holds an annual leadership summit at the CIA’s campus in Hyde Park, NY, and produces many other resources for the foodservice industry, all of which can be found at To keep up with news about Menus of Change and its principles at work, subscribe to receive regular updates on the website and follow @CIALeadership on Twitter with #CIAMOC.

For more information about the Collaborative, please visit, or contact:

Sophie Egan
Director of Programs and Culinary Nutrition for the Strategic Initiatives Group
The Culinary Institute of America

Eric Montell
Executive Director
Stanford Dining
Residential & Dining Enterprises
Stanford University

Photo Caption & Hi-Res Image:

MCURC is an outgrowth of the Menus of Change initiative. The aim is to accelerate the adoption of the Principles of Healthy, Sustainable Menus by the higher education sector and to encourage young adults to make healthy food and lifestyle choices. (Photo credit: Courtesy CIA)
View hi-res image >

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Jan Smyth
Marketing Manager

About The Culinary Institute of America

Founded in 1946, The Culinary Institute of America is the world’s premier culinary college. Dedicated to driving leadership development for the foodservice and hospitality industry, the independent, not-for-profit CIA offers associate degrees in culinary arts and baking and pastry arts; bachelor’s degree majors in management, culinary science, and applied food studies; and executive education through its Food Business School. Its conferences and consulting services have made the CIA the think tank of the food industry in the areas of health & wellness, sustainability, world cuisines & cultures, and professional excellence & innovation. The college also offers certificate programs and courses for professionals and enthusiasts. Its worldwide network of 49,000 alumni includes leaders in every area of foodservice and hospitality. The CIA has campuses in New York, California, Texas, and Singapore.

About Stanford Residential and Dining Enterprises

Stanford Residential and Dining Enterprises (R&DE) is a non-profit University auxiliary that includes R&DE student Housing, R&DE Stanford Dining, R&DE Hospitality and Auxiliaries, and R&DE Stanford Conferences. The R&DE staff vision is to be the best in the business by creating a culture of excellence. Throughout R&DE, we support respectful, open communications and encourage leadership development and staff recognition in a responsible manner that supports the academic mission of the University. R&DE has a wide variety of first-rate dining halls, on-campus restaurants, catering services, a guest house, Schwab executive services, and conference and meeting services that are designed to meet the needs of the Stanford community. R&DE houses 12,000 students and families in more than 350 residential buildings; serves more than 18,000 meals a day in 22 campus locations; and welcomes more than 20,000 conference guests a year.

For more information, visit

About Stanford Prevention Research Center

Through the Stanford Prevention Research Center (SPRC), a division of the School of Medicine and a leader in pioneering health research, studies are being conducted around healthy and sustainable food systems with a focus on investigating the potential health benefits of various dietary components or food patterns. In 2010, Christopher Gardner, Professor of Medicine at SPRC and colleagues from across the Stanford campus created the Stanford Food Summit, an unprecedented annual gathering of Stanford experts on food-related issues from across all of the University’s seven schools. The 2010–2014 Stanford Food Summits have provided a catalyst for discussing solutions to some of the nation’s most challenging and important crises that lie at the intersection of human health and the health of the planet, including: the national health crisis, the climate crisis, outdated national food policies, the hidden toll of industrial food production and much more.

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