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Dining Services recognized for new healthy food line

by Ashley Sporleder, CLAS ’08 - May 19, 2008

The Department of Dining Services has earned a national award for its new line of healthy foods known as Spa Foods.

Staff of the department will receive the Menu Master’s “Healthful Innovations” award on May 17, during the organization’s award ceremony in Chicago. This is the first time a college or university will receive a Menu Masters award.

The awards are sponsored by Nation’s Restaurant News and Ventura Foods LLC, and are generally given to chain restaurants.

According to Menu Masters, UConn received the award “for setting new standards of excellence and creativity, which significantly impact and benefit the food service industry.”

“It’s really nice that we have the ability to do this,” says Dennis Pierce, director of dining services.

“It’s been very successful.”

Pierce said he came up with the idea while washing dishes. As he looked out the window, he began to think about the concept of spas and their reputation as a place for relaxation and healthy eating.

He then pitched the idea to Rob Landophi, manager of culinary development, and Amy Pumantz, the university dietician, last spring and the three put their heads together and created a dozen recipes that meet specific criteria for fat and calories.

“We were listening to students,” says Pierce.

The Garden Veggie Wrap, one of the Spa Foods selections available at the campus cafés and convenience stores.
The Garden Veggie Wrap, one of the Spa Foods selections available at the campus cafés and convenience stores.
Photo by Gail Merrill

“They said there was a lack of healthier, portable options.”

After a successful trial run held at Wilbur Cross during the summer, the line became available in two convenience stores and six university cafes in the fall.

“The student response has been phenomenal,” Pierce said. “We can’t make enough.”

Spa Foods offerings include a variety of wraps such as the Fruity Tuna Wrap and Thai Shrimp Wrap, as well as salads including the Citrus Bean Salad.

All items are made fresh daily.

This will be the first year the University is a participant in the Menu Masters ceremony, although UConn representatives have attended the past three years.

Pierce, Landophi, and three chefs will travel to the event, where they will showcase and prepare the Spa Foods items for attendees.

Dining Services plans to introduce new items next fall.

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