Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878

MyPlate option brings more cheap greens to campus dining halls

Eating healthy at Bear’s Den just got easier or, at the very least, cheaper.

Several members of Dining Services reported that a new, healthier meal option will be available in the Danforth University Center and the Village later this month and is already available in Bear’s Den. The option, currently available at the grill stations, is less expensive than ordering the food items separately a la carte.

The MyPlate meal option is intended as a simple way for students to eat a balanced meal without having to calculate costs or calories. The physical plates, designed around the federal government-sanctioned health resource that replaced the food pyramid, were purchased during the summer.

“It was so fun the minute we saw this plate…we were standing there and passing it around and talking about all of the fun things we could do with it,” Patti Louvier, director of satellite operations for Dining Services, said. “You know nutrition is so important. You try to help people make the right decisions…and we thought that would be a great way to do it.”

April Powell, Dining Services’ marketing director, said, “So we bought [the plates] and did it completely wrong. We put them all out at brunch. It’s the one all-you-care-to-eat environment we have here, so we put them all out there and got a wide spectrum of feedback, from ‘Oh my gosh, this is great…it’s great to know what my plate should look like’ to ‘How dare you put this in front of me. I don’t care what the plate says; I’m going to put bacon in every slot.’”

Powell said Dining Services took a step back to reconsider its options after receiving a generally negative initial reaction. Its new campaign includes a previously absent promotional push.

Dining Services met with several student “MyPlate ambassadors” to brainstorm ways to make the plate work in everyday life, talked to the chefs and worked closely with Director of University Nutrition Connie Diekman.

Hayes Green, the Village executive chef, developed the final incarnation of the MyPlate project. “It’s very friendly,” he said. “It gives the option of a little bit of vegetables with a cheeseburger. Simple. Everyone thinks healthy eating is quinoa or salad, but this is approachable.”

The MyPlate option is currently only available at the Bear’s Den grill station but will soon be available at the stir-fry and pasta stations.

Early feedback appears mostly ambivalent though more positive compared to Dining Services’ last effort.

“I haven’t used [MyPlate]. I think it might be informative to people who don’t know about it, but I’ve definitely seen that information before. It’s not going to affect how I eat,” sophomore Ben Perlman said.

“I definitely think providing students with healthy options is something that Dining Services should focus on…I think the bigger problem is access. I mean, if you want a side salad at BD, you have two options: shell out $5.35 at Paws & Go for a portion that’s way bigger than a side or head over to the pasta station display case and hope there’s something there,” freshman Sierra Kindig said.

Freshman Michael Xi said, “They’re plates; they’re usable. The designs are not very useful, and the dividers don’t really do anything.”

Diekman added, “By integrating messaging, tips and this visual, students, faculty and staff will see that making the healthy choice really can be done at any station on campus. We’re looking at making things easier, showing the options and trying to convey that health and taste go together.”

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Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878