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Binghamton meets Partnership for a Healthier America first-year goals
September 16, 2016Tweet
Two years into its three-year agreement with the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), Binghamton University is hitting its marks. The University set 23 goals to achieve over three years when it became one of the first 20 colleges and universities nationwide to sign on to PHA’s Healthier Campus Initiative, aimed at making our nation’s campuses healthier by adopting guidelines around food and nutrition, physical activity and programming.
As a PHA partner, Binghamton University committed to work toward meeting its selected goals, and publicly report its progress. As of June 2015, Binghamton had met its first-year goals:
• Offer a minimum of five types of fruit, five types of vegetables and two 100 percent whole grain products at both lunch and dinner
• Make available RDNs for personal nutrition assessments and counseling to all students (Sodexo hired a second RDN in fall 2015)
• Implement a campus-wide program/policy that incentivizes the use of public or campus provided transportation
• Provide, without a user fee, 16 hours per day access to at least one fitness/recreation center for all students
• Provide at least one running/walking track that is open and available for use to individuals on campus and the community for at least three hours per day
• Offer a rental outdoor recreation equipment program for students
• Make available certified personal trainers for all students.
It will be some time before the next round of completed goals can be announced, but the University is well on its way to meeting them, according to Cindy Cowden, senior associate director of Campus Recreational Services and chair of the University’s Healthier Campus Initiative.
“All materials are reviewed by a third-party vendor to verify that we’ve met our goals,” said Cowden. Results of the second-year campus goals have recently been submitted to PHA for verification.
Cowden said there were 30 options from which Binghamton could select its goals, and when Binghamton chose its 23, some were already in place or close to completion, some were “a slight stretch” and the last few were much more goal-oriented. “Many of the goals focus on improving dining services, so of our 23 goals, 10 are tied to nutrition and eating on campus.”
Alexa Schmidt is the registered dietitian for Binghamton University Dining Services, and much of the nutrition-related guidelines fell on her shoulders to implement, in collaboration with campus executive chefs and dining directors.
“We’re in a pretty good place for what we wanted to accomplish in this second-year reporting period,” Schmidt said. “Wellness meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner are good to go. Those meals are in place and outlined on Binghamton’s Plus 1 website and highlighted on digital menu boards and signs at the station.”
Developing a healthier catering guide took quite a bit of time and energy to come up with something that met the healthy guidelines and would also be appealing to the University community, including searching out recipes and creating plans for catering options.
“We’ve created a healthier catering menu and posted it on the Binghamton dining website. We have approval from PHA to use our Mindful nutrition criteria on the menu,” Schmidt added. “The criteria is based on the latest science and leading health organization recommendations.”
Of all of the PHA campus partners, a number have Sodexo as their foodservice provider, Cowden said, so on the national level, Sodexo is actively involved in creating healthy changes. How each campus partner is implementing the PHA guidelines may vary.
Schmidt noted, however, that Binghamton University Dining Services is striving to take the initiative’s guidelines – and the goals Binghamton University has selected – to the next step. “The wellness meals were the most challenging,” she said. “We were meeting the criteria, but took the initiative to that next step and put together a program that highlighted the wellness meals and two other PHA guidelines with a simple Plus 1 message. We want to show the healthy choice is the easy choice.”
Among other nutrition goals, Binghamton’s include offering a vegetarian option at every platform that serves meat, and limiting the number of fried foods offered
in all dining halls.
Schmidt said that the dining services team is in contact on a regular basis with other campuses where Sodexo manages foodservice, and many of them are particularly interested in our wellness meals. “Binghamton is the leader,” she said. “People have reached out asking about our wellness meals and how we implemented them.
“We also have tremendous support and collaboration from around campus that you don’t necessarily see at other campuses,” she added. “I don’t think they all have that strong connection with different campus departments. We have health and wellness dining ambassadors and internships though Health and Wellness Studies, not just doing a lot of dining hall promotions, but wellness and exercise classes with a tie to dining.”
Dining Services cooperates with Campus Recreation for the annual health fair, which has buy-in from departments across campus as well as from community organizations, and is working with Residential Life on having a presence in Old Digman Hall when it reopens with a health and wellness theme to house students this fall.
PHA has really generated excitement on my end,” Schmidt said. “It’s brought our team additional University support and has been a great opportunity. Now what’s next? I would like to see if we can accomplish all PHA food and nutrition guidelines beyond the 10 selected, while continuing to add our own creative ideas along the way.”
When submitting updates to PHA, the University needs to demonstrate the benefits of the changes it has made, Cowden said. “PHA’s Healthier Campus initiative has given Binghamton leverage to create change with some of the other health and wellness priorities on campus. It’s a catalyst in getting movement on projects that we have been considering for a while. It’s also easier to get buy-in when projects are part of PHA and we have a contract with them. The University has made a commitment.”
The campus planned to meet 10 goals in 2016, but submitted nine. The remaining goal, to install mile markers around campus, was completed in June, after the deadline, said Cowden.
Cowden is also curious about what “HCI 2.0” will look like once the initial three-year goals have been met, and expects it to expand or challenge collegiate partners to think about the three pillars of nutrition, physical activity and programming and how they impact other aspects of students’ lives. “I expect we will 1continue working with PHA after we complete our 23 goals,” she said, “expanding the breadth and depth of the goals will become part of our strategic planning process of how we can be the healthiest campus.“
“Moving forward, PHA, through the Healthier Campus Initiative, wants to find ways to evaluate and measure progress on each of the guidelines and the overall impact to the campus culture. It is important to show progress, change and growth.”