Attendees at the first annual Menus of Change leadership summit, which took place in Cambridge, Massachusetts, examined the future of food and the challenges facing the country in terms of health, health care, and the food systems.

Copresented by The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), Department of Nutrition, the Menus of Change program and accompanying annual report provide a “GPS” for today’s foodservice executives at a time when the food industry is being reshaped by concerns about obesity and health care costs, how food is produced and sourced, and declining global resources.

“It has been exciting to see the leaders from different sectors—foodservice, the environment, nutrition science, and business—interact with such drive and commitment,” says Dr. Tim Ryan, president of the CIA. “Menus of Change is helping them find common ground at the intersection of some of the most pervasive issues that face our industry and our world, and we are setting a meaningful course of action toward solutions.”

During the conference, experts in foodservice, health science, and social change presented information on topics relevant to what today’s health- and environmentally conscious consumers expect from corporations, foodservice operators, and business leaders.

Topics and presenters included:

  • “Connecting Culinary Excellence with Social Responsibility,”
    with Simon Marshall (Unilever Food Solutions); Nicki Briggs, MS, RD (Chobani); Harvey Hartman (The Hartman Group); and Michael Kaufman (Centerplate Restaurant Group)
  • “Technology, Investment, and Innovation and the Future of Food,”
    with Will Rosenzweig (Physic Ventures); Stephanie Chenevert (Google Food Services); Christy Consler (Jamba Juice); David Feller (Yummly); Danielle Gould (Food + Tech Connect); Ellen Kennedy (Calvert Investments); and Anthony Zolezzi (Pegasus Capital Advisors)
  • “Developing the Next Generation for Health, Sustainability, and Leadership,”
    with Gail Christopher, DN (W. K. Kellogg Foundation); Tim Ryan, EdD, CMC (CIA); and Julio Frenk, MD (HSPH)

The highlight of the three-day conference was the release of the Menus of Change Annual Report, which includes an analysis of 13 issues at the convergence of public health, the environment, and the business of food.

Developed in collaboration with leading scientists and business experts—the initiative's Scientific and Technical Advisory Council (chaired by Walter Willett, MD, DrPH of the HSPH Department of Nutrition) and Sustainable Business Leadership Council—the report provides groundbreaking, evidence-based strategies for foodservice executives.

Its “Principles of Healthy, Sustainable Menus” section gives business leaders unprecedented guidance to navigate game-changing food-related issues.

“This first report presents the base and structure for the viable tracking of dietary quality in America,” Dr. Willett says. “We will continue to research, review, and report on these important health and environmental issues, explore strategies, and offer promising solutions to food-linked environmental challenges, unacceptably high obesity and chronic disease rates, and other public health imperatives.”

The Menus of Change Annual Report is available on Additional presentations from the conference will be posted over the next month.

Representatives from organizations as diverse as Panera Bread and New York Presbyterian Hospital, Darden Restaurants and Oregon State University, and McDonald’s and Monterey Bay Aquarium are exploring opportunities for their future business success with sector leaders during break-out discussion sessions:

  • Putting more seafood on the plate while keeping more fish in the sea
  • The shifting role of proteins
  • Filling half the plate with fruits and vegetables
  • The challenges of protein size, calories, and sugar-sweetened beverages

“Many companies consider health, environmental issues, and business success separately,” says Arlin Wasserman, chair of the Menus of Change Sustainable Business Leadership Council and founder of Changing Tastes.

“The dialogue among top executives thus far at our first summit shows that the most meaningful innovation takes place when all three are considered as a whole,” he adds. “Embedding that view into the culinary profession over the coming years will be critical for accelerating the pace of change.”

The 2014 Menus of Change conference will be held June 9–11, again at The Charles Hotel in Cambridge. 

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