UChoose campaign on the menu at UI

Starting in January, The University of Iowa will launch UChoose, a nutrition campaign that aims to increase awareness around healthy food options and create an environment that supports healthy choices for students, staff, faculty, patients, and visitors.

Groups across campus collaborated on the UChoose campaign. An initial rollout began in January in pilot locations (all UIHC food service locations and Hillcrest and Burge Residence Halls), with a more robust rollout planned for March, which is National Nutrition Month. All campus dining facilities will feature UChoose by May.

An apple logo identifies healthy items and entrées that meet the guidelines of the Healthy Campus Nutrition Advisory Group. Guidelines include these criteria:

  • Fat is 30 percent or less of total calories
  • Zero trans fat
  • Added sugars are less than 25 percent of total calories
  • Whole grain as a major ingredient
  • Whole fruit and fruit juice is primarily used
  • Sodium is less than 480 mg/serving or less than 600 mg for entrees or sandwiches

Greg Black is the director of University Dining and oversees Residential Dining, University Catering, and all Campus Retail Food Services. Joan Dolezal is the director of Food and Nutrition Service at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. They spoke with fyi about making preparations for the new program, the expected response to UChoose, and their favorite foods that fall under the UChoose banner.

Where in University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics will people be able to find UChoose information?

Joan Dolezal

Joan Dolezal

Joan Dolezal: The information is available at www.healthcare.uiowa.edu/uchoose. In addition, the flat screens across the hospital complex will point people in the right direction. Table tents and NoonNews (daily news available in the dining facilities) will provide information on the program. Last, but not least, all electronic menu boards and individual labels on food items in the dining facilities will identify those items that meet the UChoose criteria for healthy food options.

Burge and Hillcrest Market Places are UChoose pilot locations. How will you draw attention to the program?

Greg Black

Greg Black

Greg Black: At each food station and throughout the service areas, there will be signs describing the program and briefly explaining the Campus Nutrition Guidelines. Information will also be given to resident assistants so they can share the message with their residents. And menu items that meet the Campus Nutrition Guidelines will be designated with the UChoose apple on the item signage. Implementation of this initiative will continue throughout the semester.

Signage for other campus dining facilities will be included after the initial rollout to allow time for the committee to study the marketing effectiveness and make changes as needed.

Residence Dining has been doing Wellness Wednesdays for quite a while now. How does UChoose support that effort?

Black: The purpose of Wellness Wednesdays has been to raise the level of awareness among our students to issues relating to nutrition, exercise, and the environment, and to encourage them to make more nutritious food choices and become more physically active. UChoose is a perfect fit for that initiative because it supports the idea of healthy eating. The UChoose symbol will become a part of the Wellness Wednesdays educational component.

What preparations did it take to roll out UChoose in the UIHC dining facilities?

To view the full Healthy Campus Nutrition Guidelines, visit www.healthcare.uiowa.edu/uchoose.

Dolezal: This required collaboration and partnering with University of Iowa Health Care marketing and communications, creative services, and information system departments. We have several dining facilities spread throughout the complex so an internal departmental communication plan was developed for implementation at UI Hospitals and Clinics. Communication is key to a successful rollout!

How do you think students, patients, and visitors will react to the apple logo, and the program itself?

Black: I believe students will appreciate the ease of identifying menu items that meet the nutritional guidelines. We will help them make informed menu decisions—the choice remains theirs.

Dolezal: I believe the response to the logo will be extremely positive. Our customers will appreciate a “healthy nutrition” graphic, which is easily identifiable.

The overall reaction: many UI Hospitals and Clinics employees are very interested in their health and specifically nutrition. As a department, we receive requests to provide nutritional information on the food items we serve in our dining facilities. I believe UI Hospitals and Clinics employees will welcome UChoose as an outstanding resource for nutrition information. Providing a useful tool, including an easily identifiable nutritional graphic, will create a positive educational environment as employees make healthy choice selections for food and vending items.

Do you have a favorite item/entree that will be designated as an “approved” item by UChoose?

Black: The vegetarian Indian food on Fridays, especially the palak paneer made with tofu, chana dal, and peanut rice. I also like the new healthy salad offerings: cannelini bean/sun-dried tomato, farro and fresh mozzarella, and the roasted squash with wild rice.

Dolezal: The New Orleans beans and pasta. This is on our menu cycle and is served in our Compass Café dining facility.