Irish Rover: Could you describe your occupation and various duties to the university?
Antonelli: My title is nutrition and safety. I am responsible for nutritional programming with the students, faculty and staff. I am a support person for our department. I don’t write menus—we have food court concepts in the dining halls. I’m here to be of support so I can advise and suggest. Students get to dictate, and then I get to try to influence from a nutrition standpoint.
I meet with a lot of students—do a lot of nutritional counseling—also do counseling with faculty and staff—try to do nutrition education through posters, workshops. I give nutrition talks in dorms quite a bit.
What health initiatives has food service started for National Nutrition Month?
We’ve tried new recipes. For example, in the waffles, we have a whole grain batter and a regular batter. I’m fine with people having carbs and breads—you need those in your diet, but I want to make sure we’re getting whole grain and high fiber choices. Up until this month, we didn’t have an option. I saw this month as an opportunity to get a whole grain waffle.
We have different recipes that we featured for the month. We tried to use Thursday as the day to feature things. Each lunch we featured 2-3 recipes, and each dinner we featured 2-3 recipes. I think we do a lot with meat, but the things I hear a lot are from the vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free students, so I was trying to come up with recipes that fit all these different sub-categories and populations of people.
We had 2 weeks where there was a chef and dietitian table—we tried to get out there and engage the students and let them know what was going on. I had a physician from Yale come in and speak last Thursday night on nutrition in the 21st century and what people need to know—that was really exciting.
Which food do you think college students lack the most?
No question about it—vegetables. When I do diet analysis on students, I have them keep food records for me for three days. It is very rare that I meet a student who gets enough vegetables every day. Protein is never an issue. It is only once or twice a year that I have to tell a student that they’re not getting enough protein. Protein’s usually taken care of. That’s always a big concern. Everyone’s like, “Oh I want to make sure I’m getting enough protein,” especially if [he or she is] a vegetarian student. But vegetables are the ones that I universally see lacking … and vegetables have protein in them. So, if people are getting enough vegetables every day, which is 5 fist-sized servings, then they’re getting protein as well.
Do you plan on continuing the health initiatives of this last month?
The feedback I got being at the tables and the stations where people were tasting those recipes was very positive. I heard, “Wow, this is a really great recipe.” I want to incorporate those items into the cycle menu. Usually the dining hall managers and chefs are very willing to try things that I suggest, so I collected and stored recipes that I thought would go over well, and this was a good time to implement it. I’m hoping to discuss it at the staff meeting on Monday—let’s get them in there and get [the recipes] going.
What improvements to food service do you find most important to student health?
We’ve got a new director—he started over Fall Break. He’s bringing in some exciting ideas. He’s really interested in and supportive of nutrition, and he really wants me to have a loud voice in things. I want to keep building on having options that work for students who are gluten-free, students who are vegetarian/vegan, but, because they’re so delicious, they’re going to appeal to everybody. So that’s what I want to keep working on and pushing.
We got an award for [being accommodating to gluten-free students] last year. It’s really been in the past 7-8 years that the needs have exploded. On the good side of things, because there’s so many people that need to avoid gluten, the choices are so much better than they used to be. It used to be that you could only go to a health food store, and the choices for breads and pizza crusts—they were lousy. And now there’s delicious gluten-free pizza, there’s even gluten-free beer these days, gluten-free cookies. People think, “I’m going to miss pasta so much”—there’s great gluten-free pastas. It’s not really a devastating sentence now to say that someone cannot have gluten.
Caroline Corsones is a sophomore English major with a minor in secondary education. She is very excited to try these new recipes, but she is still on the hunt to answer the age-old question, “Is butter a carb?” Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.