The History behind Healthy Eating at Dana


Can you believe that there are connections between the Ford Mustang and healthy eating at Dana Hall? Lee Iacocca, the American business man renowned as the president of Ford Motors and one of the greatest salesmen in the U.S. history, sent his granddaughters Mary-Caitlin Hentz ’06, Molly Hentz ’09, and Maeve Hentz to the Dana Hall School. Because Iacocca’s wife had died of diabetes decades earlier, he founded The Iacocca Family Foundation to research the disease and to educate students about healthy eating habits. For this reason, Iacocca funded Dana, in 2008, to bring in a nutritionist, Mary Jo Cutler, who worked with Dana’s culinary staffs to improve nutrition and also to educate students at Dana about the links between diet and health.

Pia Manna, the Director of Health Services, believes that the body and brain require proper nutrients and calories to keep them running at high efficiency. “Foods that are high in fats, calories and simple sugars,” she said, “cause a rapid spike in blood sugar, followed by a quick decrease, which can leave us with feelings of increased fatigue, moodiness, hunger, and lack of focus.” The body needs good fuel to keep it operating properly and at peak performance. A diet rich in lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and fiber gives the body all the energy and nutrients it needs for a healthy, active lifestyle. A proper diet also keeps the brain clear and strong, giving students the ability to concentrate and possibly improve their abilities.

In addition to supporting healthy functioning, choices at the Dining Hall have grown and improved over time. According to Dr. Bucci, the Chair of English Department and a resident on campus for almost twelve years, “The dining hall food has always been excellent; over the past few years, [though] there has been a wonderful shift toward more vegetables and salads—and more delicious vegetable soups. I love this new trend.” There is also a greater emphasis on the side dishes, which now include wheatberry salads, roasted vegetables, and innovative vegetable dishes. Dr. Bucci said: “It takes a lot of vision and creativity to cook for so many people, and make so many people happy.” Her favorite foods include the new squash soup, curried lentils, salads made with bulgar, cranberries, feta, cucumbers, and chick peas.

Paul Schreier, the Director of Dining Services analyzes the nutritional value of every Dana menu. “With much help from Mary Jo,” he said“ [Cutler] and I reworked the school’s menus and recipes, reducing fat and sodium, whenever possible. We also worked on allergy awareness for all Dining Center staffs and healthy cooking techniques for kitchen workers.” Schreier and Cutler also increased vegetarian options at the school and incorporated the use of different whole grains, such as bulghur, quinoa, and wheat berries into the menus.

Schreier and Cutler put great effort into improving the nutritional value as well as the diversity of the food served at Dana. They created international dinner at Dana. These dinners provide international students with more foods that are familiar to them, and also enable students to present the cuisine of their home countries to other students. Culter worked with a few girls from different countries to create a new list of dishes and Mr. Schreier determined the final menu. Schreier prepares food for Tuesday night, which is usually the community dinner at Dana. Dining Center staffs have changed many of the international recipes to reduce the fat and calorie content, but have also made sure that the flavor has not suffered.

Cutler also provided some direct education about nutrition in all-school assemblies, about topics such as the problem of caffine consumption and the importance of calcium. Then she conducted a beverage survey and met with student government, and discovered out that too few Dana girls were drinking milk. Schreier responded to this by offering wide ranges of milk drinks, include coffee milk, chocolate milk, non-fat milk and 1% fat mile. As a result, Dana girls consumption of milk has increased. At the same time, a sweet drink named the Cristal Light was removed from the Dining Hall’s options because of its high sugar content. Cutler and Schreier also decided restore the shiply Center’s vending machines with healthier choices.

In addition to improving nutritional choices at Dana, the School is also improving its education about healthy eating. Dana is currently planning to bring in a professor of nutrition from Boston University to offer a Forum class for seniors about healthy eating in college. Also in the Middle School, Dana has presented two educational musical productions with abundant information with nutrition and healthy lifestyles in the past few years, in addition to teaching nutrition in Middle School forum classes every year.

These days, the Dining Center prepares every lunch with a vegetarian option. Lunch One is usually the time for Middle School Students to have lunch. Some girls have lot meat, and some girls rush directly to the deserts section to have cookies and ice cream; some are vegetarians who only have salads, and some others have mixed lunch with both meat and vegetables. Mr. Schreier said, “Middle school students have very different tastes and eating habits than high school students and faculty.” Because they are young, some take taste in the first place instead of nutrition. In Lunch Two, it is the time for most Upper School students and teachers to have lunch. Most of them eat a balanced diet. Because the Dining Center has to cater to such a wide range of tastes, Schreier said he’s found that “buffet lines address this issue very well.” A wide variety of offerings, including salads, sandwich makings, and vegetarian options allow everyone to find something that they like.

Dining Center uses a lot of fresh, high quality products. Mr. Schreier believes, “If you begin with good, healthy ingredients and cook them simply and properly, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be yummy. “With a wry smile, he adds that: “Sometimes the Dining Center may serve something delicious and less nutritious, such as French fries, ice cream, or brownies, but if a student is able to balance a meal properly, there’s no harm in an occasional indulgence.”

Comments are closed.