University of Connecticut University of UC Title Fallback Connecticut

Letter From Dennis

Welcome to the Spring 2017 Semester


As I write this semester’s introduction to UCusine we are in the process of reviewing and implementing a new approach to creating healthier menu options. To work towards this goal, Dining has partnered with the Menus of Change University Research Collaborative This organization is a working group of leading scholars, foodservice leaders and executive chefs who are accelerating efforts to move Americans toward a healthier, more sustainable, plant-forward diet. MCURC consists of 44 colleges and universities, academic research and vendor partners who are all committed to collaborate on research and education in support of culinary-centric evidence-based food systems within and beyond universities. MCURC was co-founded and jointly led by Stanford University and the Culinary Institute of America as an extension of the groundbreaking initiative presented by the CIA and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Department of Nutrition.

In preparation for healthier changes ahead, Dining has already made significant adjustments to the use of salt in our recipes. As you may not be aware, Kosher salt has 53% less sodium then regular iodized salt. During this past year we have switched the use of iodized salt in our recipes and substituted kosher salt. This change has resulted in using 723,891,168mg less sodium in our recipes.

Another focus of our menus is reducing the amount of red meat that we offer. One significant change will be a transition to a blended burger that will be offered in our residential operations. This change was spearheaded by the James Beard Foundation’s Blended Burger Project. The project’s goal is to serve healthier and more sustainable meals that reduce calories and sodium and still taste delicious. Simultaneously achieving nutrition, sustainability, and flavor is a core value of America’s food system. Broadly offered on American menus, the beef-and-mushroom-blended burger, otherwise known as “The Blend,” was conceived of and incubated by the Healthy Menus R&D Collaborative (HMC), an educational initiative of high-volume culinary leaders developed by the Culinary Institute of America in partnership with its founding member, the Mushroom Council. The Blend concept is an example of the innovative and strategic culinary insights that are used to address the substantial health and environmental imperatives that face the foodservice industry. For UConn Dining, this change is a groundbreaking development and an opportunity to change the way UConn students eat. What will this change accomplish?

  • Using the blended burger: We have reduced the fats, calories, and carbohydrates by nearly 50% when compared

to an all-beef burger. Replacing beef with mushrooms can also leave you feeling satisfied & full without eating

excess calories. The blended burger not only tastes great but it also adds an extra serving of vegetable to your

diet, instead of extra red meat. Eating more vegetables means more valuable nutrients.

  • Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease: Eating foods high in saturated fats like red meat can increase your risk for heart

disease. Replace that red meat with plant based proteins that will leave you feeling full and healthy.

  • Big Flavor: By combining mushrooms with ground beef and spices, the burgers are bursting with mouthwatering

natural umami flavor.

  • The Blend: By replacing half of the beef with low impact ingredients (mushrooms and spices) we have reduced the

environmental impact of a single burger by 45%.

  • Low Impact Ingredients (reduce water usage): Approximately 1800 gallons of water to produce 1 lb. of

beef. Mushrooms use just 1 gallon of water to produce 1lb.

  • Local: Our vendor who manufactures the burger uses only high quality local ingredients. Unlike other beef

companies that source beef from all across the world, they source their beef within 350 miles of their manufacturing

plant, keeping their transportation impact low.

  • Reduce Your Carbon Footprint!: The meat industry generates nearly 1/5 of man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

Demand for beef continues to grow worldwide, and swapping an all-beef burger for a Blended Burger can help

reduce dependence on the beef industry.

So how do we continue to work on healthier menus? We will continue to review our menus and decrease the amount of fried items. We will make sure there are many fruit and vegetable options and we will feature more menu choices that use legumes. It is our goal to improve the opportunities to eat well. We hope in the next few semesters to make healthier choices easier for students, faculty and staff across campus. We believe that a healthier diet, combined with physical activity, enhances your ability to do better as you pursue your academic goals.

Lastly, to keep in touch with Dining and the services we offer, please utilize this guidebook, our UCuisine. If one is not available, you can find all of our information on our website at Looking for further information on healthy eating? Check out our “10 Steps To Eating Well at All UConn Dining Service’s Residential Dining Units” on our web site. There you will also find a great tool called a balanced plate, MYPLATE, a healthy eating guide produced by the U.S. government.

Your dining experience has to be a memorable one while at UConn or we have failed to meet your expectations.


Eat well, enjoy life and pursue your dreams.

Dennis Pierce, Executive Director, UConn Dining