To collaborate on research and education in support of culinary-centric, evidence-based food systems innovation within and beyond universities.
In 2012, The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH)—Department of Nutrition launched Menus of Change, a groundbreaking initiative to advance better food choices and menu development at the intersection of health, sustainability imperatives, culinary insight, and next-generation business strategy. With the success of the initiative’s annual Menus of Change leadership summits and annual reports, “Charting the Future of Food & the Foodservice Industry,” the CIA and Stanford University launched a complementary initiative in 2014: the Menus of Change University Research Collaborative (MCURC).
The MCURC is a network of over 200 members accelerating innovation, advancing Menus of Change principles, and pioneering research to accelerate efforts to move American consumers—and college/university students, scholars, and staff in particular—toward healthier, more sustainable, plant-forward diets. With representatives from over 50 member colleges and universities in addition to Research Collaborators and ex officio member institutions, the Collaborative brings together key university-based leaders for the first time to work toward this vision: senior university administrators, dining directors, executive chefs, nutritionists and sustainable food program managers, and academic researchers. The Collaborative is both inclusive and extensive in its membership, composed of a diverse mix of perspectives as far as geographic location, size and type of institution (both private and public), fields of study, and types of dining operations.
The purpose of MCURC is to create a culture of sharing and innovation within and among colleges and universities using the Menus of Change principles in their campus dining operations, and to advance a research agenda related to those principles. Members explore critical food issues within university settings and share these educational and research findings with colleagues across the entire food and foodservice industry. The interdisciplinary strengths of the collaborative address the critical roles that culinary arts, menu design, ingredient sources, and restaurant layout can play in fostering these changes.
The Collaborative recognizes that a significant amount of energy for food systems transformation today is being driven by concerned university students and forward-looking faculty and administration, and understands that university food systems hold considerable untapped potential to further catalyze existing efforts.
In short, the MCURC recognizes that, in order to advance critical food issues, systems-level solutions are required that integrate academic, business, culinary, and consumer insights. One of the best ways to advance such thinking is by incubating novel collaborations in university-wide academic and foodservice settings—and innovative collaboration among universities.