About Menus Of Change

This document provides a concise overview of the vision and goals of the Menus of Change initiative. For more detail, check out the background information below.

Seven years ago, leaders at The Culinary Institute of America and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health posed three questions about the future of the culinary profession and the foodservice industry:

  • What if our most delicious foods—just coincidentally—were, or could be, also healthy and environmentally sustainable?
  • What if America’s most talented chefs, scientists, and business leaders, along with today’s culinary students, were collectively engaged in driving towards business-friendly solutions to our public health crisis and the most pressing environmental problems, like climate change and water scarcity?
  • What if we could create new approaches to collaboration between nutrition and medical experts, chefs, and environmental scientists to help the business community develop new models of innovation—and new, long-term business strategies—around opportunities for the future of food and foodservice?

Together, the CIA and Harvard have been working to create a long-term, practical vision for the integration of optimal nutrition and public health, environmental stewardship and restoration, and social responsibility concerns within the foodservice sector and beyond.

At the core of Menus of Change are our Principles of Healthy, Sustainable Menus. These provide chefs and foodservice leaders with menu and recipe guidance related to health and sustainability, along with business strategies that integrate both environmental and nutrition science imperatives.

Menus of Change has grown to involve some of the nation’s most influential and well-respected leaders on health, sustainability, and food in guiding its future work:

The Sustainable Business Leadership Council sets priorities for the initiative and the industry and extends our reach into the industry. It involves more than 25 leading restaurant and foodservice executives, chefs, and investment professionals.

The Scientific and Technical Advisory Council provides the initiative and the industry with an annual review of new and emerging science at the intersection of health, the environment, and the business of food as well as developing an annual rating of the industry’s progress in serving healthy, sustainable, and delicious food, and is chaired by Dr. Walter Willett, professor and chairman emeritus of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The Menus of Change University Research Collaborative (see sidebar), co-led by The Culinary Institute of America and Stanford University, offers a platform for conducting interdisciplinary food systems research and sharing strategies for implementing Menus of Change principles that now involves 45 college and university foodservice and academic programs across the nation.

Those who have attended the Menus of Change annual leadership summits held in Cambridge, MA and at the CIA’s Hyde Park campus include:

  • CEOs of more than 50 companies
  • Hundreds of senior executives and chefs in the foodservice industry
  • Scientists from environmental, food systems, business, public health, and medical disciplines
  • Journalists from The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, National Public Radio, Washington Post, Foodservice Director, Nation’s Restaurant News, and other leading publications

The CIA and Harvard Chan School host a leadership summit each June and produce an annual report on the future of food. Each year, the report is developed in collaboration with leading scientists and business experts from the two advisory councils, to ensure the report reflects the most current and accurate evidence available. Read our 2019 report, which includes a State of the Plate Dashboard showing the industry's progress on a set of critical issues at the intersection of public health and nutrition, environmental sustainability, and business. The report also includes analyses of those issues and case studies featuring companies that have successfully combined sustainability and profit.

Throughout the year, we also publish frequent insights on news, research, and other happenings related to key issues and principles, as well as resources for foodservice professionals . Subscribe to our blog insights here.

A Brief Overview

Food is a lens through which we see the world. It is integral to our traditions, our celebrations, and our culture.

Our food choices—what we eat and what we serve our families—influence our health and the health of our planet. These choices are linked to both acute and chronic disease prevention and control. These same choices affect the livelihoods of more than one billion people around the world who work each day to produce and serve our food.

Restaurants and other foodservice operations account for nearly half of every dollar that Americans spend on food. Chefs and culinary leaders are assuming ever larger, more pivotal roles in integrating key imperatives of taste, health, the environment, community, business, and economics.

With issues and leaders like these in mind, Menus of Change aims to spark new insights and develop innovative solutions.

You can find a complete overview of Menus of Change here.