New food guide won’t affect student plates at DC, UOIT

Donald Bark is a third-year mechanical engineering technology student at DC, and brings his lunch every day. Photo credit: Cecelia Feor

There will be “minimal disruption” to menu items at Durham College and UOIT, despite the release of Canada’s new food guide.

Todd McKinnon, director of Aramark at DC, UOIT thinks changing the food guide is a great thing.

However, he says Aramark has limited authority over the menus offered at franchises, such as Pizza Pizza and Tim Hortons.

The new guide, released by the federal government Tuesday, suggests Canadians cook more meals at home and to be mindful of eating habits.

In the previous food guide, released 12 years ago, the focus was on serving sizes and the four food groups: dairy, fruits/vegetables, proteins and grains.

Serving sizes and food groups do not appear on the 2019 guide, but have been replaced by a full plate, which contains various fruits and vegetables on half, one quarter proteins including legumes, and one quarter grains with emphasis on whole grains. There is also a glass of water as a reminder to “make water your drink of choice”.

According to McKinnon, 70 per cent of food options on campus are brands and must follow suit with similar menu options as other franchises.

The remaining 30 per cent of food options are Aramark proprietary brands, such as Pan Fusion in the Marketplace and The GrillHouse located in the Student Centre.

“We take the opportunity with our brands, to provide healthier options, more vegetarian options,” McKinnon says, adding branded partners don’t always do that.

McKinnon says there is full menu control over proprietary brands and the menu can be changed based on student feedback.

This feedback can be received in different ways.

McKinnon says people knock on his office door, and there are also “table talkers” which sit on tables with cards with a link to a website for feedback.

“Any feedback is good feedback,” he says.

McKinnon adds he would consider posting the new food guide in Aramark locations.

“The more information that people have, the more informed dining decisions they can make,” McKinnon says.

He says he is a chef by trade, noting healthy and less processed food is “what I’m all about.”

Food options on campus vary greatly, from pizza and salads to poutine and baked goods.

But how can students make informed decisions when it comes to food on campus?

“Sometimes it’s taking the time to scout things out, investigate what’s there, and not be afraid to ask for things,” says Sylvia Emmorey, a holistic nutritionist at DC.

She says there are many good changes to the food guide, but it shouldn’t have taken 12 years to update. The United States, by comparison, updates its food guide every five years.

“People are changing, science is changing, food is changing,” Emmorey says, adding food available now is different from what it was in 2007.

She would like to see an updated food guide posted in places where students get food on campus, such as The Marketplace.

“Any kind of change takes time, so at least having it there, even if (students) are standing in a lineup and it’s there to look at it, it’s food for thought,” Emmorey says.

As for the addition of water to the guide, students can receive an energy boost from it in the same way coffee boosts energy, she says.

“If you’re not drinking enough water it can affect how your food is being digested,” Emmorey says, adding “water is really important, it’s necessary for every bodily process.”