As part of a more holistic approach to food service, Stanford Dining has hired Elaine Magee as its new wellness nutritionist.
The new position is the first full-time nutritionist Stanford Dining has ever supported. Previously, Ricker dining manager Mary Duch served as Dining’s part-time nutritionist. Following the new hire, Duch will be managing Ricker full-time. Vaden Health Center also has a full-time nutritionist, Vivian Crisman, who works with students on individual dietary concerns.
Stanford Dining specifically created a “wellness” nutritionist position to encompass a more holistic view of nutrition and health in the dining experience.
“It comes naturally that with our dedication to EatWell and our partnership with BeWell, we would create a position for a Performance and Wellness Nutritionist,” Eric Montell, executive director of Stanford Dining, wrote in an e-mail to The Daily. “Stanford Dining wants to serve food that not only provides nutrients that students need to prevent illness, but also food that maximizes athletic and intellectual performance.”
Stanford Dining was looking for someone with a strong nutrition background and who was comfortable writing and communicating via the Internet and social network sites to reach students where they are. After a search by a steering committee, Magee emerged as an obvious choice.
Before coming to Stanford, Magee worked as a nutrition expert and writer for WebMD.com, wrote more than 25 books on nutrition, and wrote a national column in which she “made over” recipes to make them healthier. She saw a unique opportunity in coming to Stanford.
“Over the past couple of years I have seen how impersonal and limiting contract food service can be on other college campuses, so I was particularly impressed with how different things are here at Stanford Dining,” she wrote in an e-mail to The Daily.
Magee expressed excitement about the position because of its unique broad view of nutrition.
“I hope to help students and student athletes (and interested staff) reach a higher level of health while embracing health in the more holistic sense — health in mind, body and spirit,” Magee said.
To achieve this, a large part of Magee’s role will involve organizing outreach with the many wellness-oriented programs on campus.
Dining wanted to support BeWell and ASSU Health and Wellness, partner with Stanford Athletics and serve as a liaison to Vaden Health Promotions, Montell said.
Magee will also assist with some of Stanford Dining’s own outreach programs. For instance, she was just involved with the BeWell Student Launch Party to promote eating whole, fresh foods. Her dining outreach will also involve appearances at the dining halls with an “Ask Elaine!” sign to talk directly with students about nutrition questions.
Magee will also take an active role in consulting the dining halls on nutrition and their menus. She says she is already working on a project with the chefs on campus.
“I am working on a whole grain project (whole wheat bread, buns and pasta) with the chefs as a standard to increase whole grain consumption. This would mean whole grains would be used as the rule rather than the exception. So, in other words, dining halls would make grilled cheese sandwiches on whole wheat bread and a student could request it to be made on white bread if that’s what they prefer,” Magee said.
She will be blogging and writing about nutrition and working directly with students. Her blog, called “Food for Thought,” will appear on Stanford Dining’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Her pieces will also appear on the Dining newsletter that appears on dining hall tables every two weeks.
William Lee ’12 hadn’t heard of her arrival but did see a role for her in improving the dining-hall menus.
“If she could figure out a way to do less mass cooking — find easier, healthier things chefs can cook that students can eat without feeling like they’re sacrificing something,” he said. “Perhaps giving them less unhealthy options so that the healthy options become just as good as the unhealthy ones.”
Some students, such as Jisun Minh ’11, had heard about Magee’s arrival through the dining-hall newsletter. However, she wasn’t sure what to expect.
“I’m not all too sure what a nutritionist is supposed to do, or where she is,” Minh said.
Magee will eventually be stationed in the new East Campus Dining Commons, to be completed this spring. The dining hall has a performance and wellness theme and will foster a program Magee is spearheading.
“[My] largest project…is a program called Performance Dining,” she said. “This is a new concept that looks at the relationship between eating, activity levels and the nutrition aspects of food. This new program will be fully realized in the soon to be built East Campus Dining Commons.”