The University of New Hampshire was introduced to the concept of utilizing the popular Guiding Stars program into our campus’ dining program almost 1 year ago. From the moment we began to discuss the program, I felt it was a good fit for what we were trying to accomplish – communicating quick and easy nutritional information in our dining halls.
Prior to Guiding Stars, we presented nutritional information on cards that were placed next to each menu item. While that offering was informative, this easy to understand symbol system, with Gus as its mascot, seemed a natural addition to our program and provided an informational platform for our guests to make food choices.
After the rating of some 1,200 recipes, we introduced the Guiding Stars program to our guests. We viewed the launch as an educational opportunity for not only our students, but for us as well. We quickly learned that some of the menu items we previously thought were “healthy” didn’t pass the Guiding Stars parameters and some items we didn’t think would pass – did.
The Guiding Stars ratings have challenged us to rethink ingredients and incorporate more vegetables and fiber – and less salt and sugar. Feedback has been positive; students, faculty and staff want to see more items on the menu with more Guiding Stars. Recently, we held a Healthy UNH luncheon where almost everything on the menu earned at least one Guiding Star. The feedback on the menu was outstanding and Guiding Stars had a lot to do with the meal’s success.
Throughout the implementation process, right through today, Misty and her colleagues at the Guiding Stars Licensing Company have been great to work with. The team has worked to bridge gaps between our production software company, our IT staff and our evolving needs/ideas. They have been available, supportive and a true partner in the creation of the program at UNH.
I am very pleased with the results and the immediate impact the Guiding Stars program has had on our operations. It sets us apart from other Universities and helps put UNH Dining Services in the category of truly innovative organizations.
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Jon Plodzik is the Director of Dining at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, NH. UNH launched Guiding Stars in their dining halls in August 2009.