2011 Whole Grains Challenge Winners Announced

National Award Program Recognizes Most Creative Foodservice Outlets

BOSTON, November 17, 2011 – Today Oldways announced the winners of the 5th annual Whole Grains Challenge. An initiative of Boston-based 501(c)3 educational non-profit Oldways and its Whole Grains Council (WGC), this Challenge encourages all dining and foodservice outlets to come up with original, creative, and compelling ways to promote whole grain awareness and enjoyment.

“Each year the Whole Grains Challenge continues to grow in size and ingenuity. We were mightily impressed by the exemplary efforts from so many of this year’s entries,” said Cynthia Harriman, Director of Food and Nutrition Strategies for the Whole Grains Council and Oldways. “Not only did we receive a record number of submissions but the programs and recipes developed to increase whole grain consumption are inspiring, delicious and nutritious!”

Winners were chosen based on creative whole grain menu offerings and innovative promotional efforts throughout the month of October.  This year, an added requirement was to submit a favorite foodservice-scale whole grain recipe which will be used to create a Best of the Whole Grains Challenge Recipe Packet (available in January) to help other foodservice operations increase their whole grain offerings. 

Entrants competed in nine categories and the judges faced some tough decisions before arriving at the following winners:

College/University:  Syracuse University, Syracuse NY
Outstanding entries from campuses across the country – BRAVO to the college and university campus kitchens!  So, how do you get those pizza-and-ramen loving students to make better food choices?  Syracuse made an all-out effort to win over their students, coming up with clever programs like “The Daily Grain” and “Try Me.”  Together with their marketing efforts, the chefs prepared great dishes, like “Cheesy Quinoa Pilaf with Spinach.”

K-12 Public: Osseo School District, Maple Grove MN   
A very impressive showing by public schools, despite their limited budgets, but the standout winner was the Osseo Area School District.  This Minnesota kitchen staff recognized their need for additional help, so reached out to locally-based Cargill to help them develop delicious recipes. This partnership, a great model for industry/school joint efforts, spoke volumes about the staff’s dedication to deliver whole grain foods that the kids would eat and enjoy. Now baking their own, from-scratch dinner rolls and French breads, this unique school cafeteria has gone above and beyond!

K-12 Private:  Winsor School, Boston MA
The Winsor School shared with us their challenges with a growing population of celiac and gluten-intolerant students in their community.  Nervous about continuing to provide delicious and nutritious menu choices for all the kids, they did their homework and learned about all of the many whole grain gluten-free options.  Starting with basics, like using quinoa as a protein-packed option for their athletes and rice flour for baking, the Winsor School packed their menu with some really amazing options.

K-12 Private:  Honorable Mention:
We added an Honorable Mention to give previous winner The Park School in Baltimore, MD, special recognition for the work they are continuing to do to expand their reach from the cafeteria into the classrooms, with nutrition lessons, food demonstrations and taste tests. 

Quick Serve:  Snap Kitchen, Houston & Austin TX
The Snap Kitchen is a fresh, healthy solution to food-on-the-go. Offering an incredible variety of gluten-free, vegan, and raw food options, this small chain in the Houston/Austin area goes the extra mile to deliver nutritious whole grain meal options to their customers. Mostly known for their whole grain comfort food makeovers, like Quinoa “Fried Rice,” Snap re-invents favorites for a healthy, yummy alternative.

Fast Casual/Family:  Casa de Luz, Austin TX
When the entry from Casa de Luz arrived, it bowled us over!  This restaurant and educational center in Austin, Texas, definitely gets it.  With no menu, only communal dining with everyone getting the same meal, Casa de Luz gives full creative license to the lead cooks so the offerings are completely different every day.  What is consistent is their dedication to using only whole grains, with innovative porridge and grain salads using the lesser-known grains – amaranth, quinoa, teff and millet. 

Healthcare (tie):  St. Peter’s Hospital, Helena MT AND
Westlake Medical Center, Austin TX
We simply could not choose between these two awesome entries, so we’re calling it as we see it: a tie!   Both of these hospitals went out of their way to make whole grains number one.  St. Peter’s Hospital in Montana’s capital couldn’t wait to get started, hosting a public program with cooking demonstration of whole grains for people with diabetes.  Then Westlake Medical Center came in shining with an impressive educational component.  They took the time to explain the nutritional benefits of whole grains to staff so they could help patients and families understand their importance.  Even more impressive was seeing what this tiny but mighty staff of 12 in Texas could accomplish on their own.

Workplace: Eurest Dining
Eurest Dining Services,  a division of Compass Group offering dining services to much of the Fortune 500, took the Whole Grains Challenge and executed on a large scale at several mid-Atlantic worksites. These cafeteria locations exploded with whole grain options and incentives, from beautiful displays and free samples with recipe cards, to contests and cool whole grain prizes. We couldn’t pick just one and decided to reward Eurest overall for planning whole grain promotions that could be replicated at multiple locations.

Lodging/Catering:  White Horse Village, Newtown Square PA
While it may not be your typical lodging situation, this active adult community serves several meals a day and prepares menus for special events too.  We were very impressed with the kitchen staff at The White Horse Village, especially when we saw the pictures of their displays, the sample trays that were passed around to guests, and the flyers they created to educate and inspire.   Sometimes the older generation can be hesitant about trying new things, but White Horse Village staffers worked together, using resources from the Whole Grains Council, to get everyone excited – and it worked!

Other: Atwater’s, Baltimore MD 
Atwater simply didn’t fit any of our categories, but luckily we have an “other” category.  Not just a restaurant, Atwater is a bakery, a café and even has farmer’s market locations all over the Baltimore and DC area.  And while their locations might each serve a different purpose, they all have a common thread – their commitment to whole foods, including whole grains on every menu, every day.  Starting with a variety of fresh-baked whole grain breads, the menu gets even more impressive with several options for salads and soups made with whole grains like their Sonoma Quinoa Tabbouleh with lentils, grapes and pickled carrots!

Winners will receive an attractive framed medal commemorating their success and a variety of whole grain foods to try on their menus, generously donated by members of the Whole Grains Council. Special thanks to the following companies for donating cases of whole grain foods to Whole Grains Challenge winners: Attune Foods, Barilla Foodservice, Blue Star Farms / Partner's Crackers, Bob's Red Mill, Caravan Ingredients / CSM, ConAgra Mills, Dr. Kracker, Fieldstone Bakery / McKee, General Mills / Nature Valley / Pillsbury / Gold Medal / Cascadian Farms, HomeFree, Indian Harvest, Lotus Foods, Minute Rice / Riviana, Sunnyland Mills and USA Rice.

In addition, all who entered will be added to the corresponding sections of our “Eating Away From Home” web page on the site.

Foodservice operations that missed this year's contest are invited to start planning now for the 2012 competition. To learn more please visit: http://wholegrainscouncil.org/get-involved/whole-grains-challenge


Please contact Rachel Greenstein (rachel@oldwayspt.org or 617-896-4888) for more information, including hi-res graphics, interviews with WGC and Oldways program managers, or recipes.

About Oldways and the Whole Grains Council
Oldways is an internationally-respected non-profit, changing the way people eat through positive and practical programs grounded in science and tradition. The Whole Grains Council (WGC), an Oldways program, has been working since 2003 to increase consumption of whole grains for better health, and in 2005 introduced the Whole Grain Stamp, now used in 23 countries. The WGC's many initiatives help consumers to find whole grain foods and understand their health benefits; help manufacturers and restaurants to create delicious whole grain foods; and help the media to write accurate, compelling stories about whole grains. You can learn more about both at http://www.oldwayspt.org and http://www.wholegrainscouncil.org.