Question: What does Sunrise Senior Living have in common with General Electric, The Walt Disney Company and Frito Lay?
Answer: All are official partners in a national push for healthy diets, spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama.
Virginia-based Sunrise, which operates about 300 senior living communities in North America and the U.K., is a new addition to the MyPlate initiative. The program dates back to 2011, when Michelle Obama unveiled the MyPlate food icon as a way of reminding people about the components of a balanced diet. The icon features a plate divided by food groups.
While older adults are one of the key demographics targeted by the MyPlate nutrition messages, Sunrise so far is the only senior living provider with National Strategic Partner status. It joins about 100 other companies and organizations with this designation. All are national in scope and reach, and fulfill a number of additional requirements. These include having a health mandate consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the mission of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP).
The National Strategic Partners pledge to promote nutrition content, specifically disseminate CNPP’s Dietary Guidelines messages and participate each year in CNPP sessions to develop and execute a joint strategic nutrition promotion plan.
Earlier this year, Sunrise Vice President of Dining & Senior Nutrition Tim Whelan met USDA representatives at a conference, and this began the process of becoming a National Strategic Partner, a company spokeswoman told Senior Housing News.
As a start, Sunrise plans to feature MyPlate messaging on Facebook and Twitter and in articles on the Sunrise Senior Eats blog. The icon also will appear on the next edition of an annual recipe book that the provider publishes.
Sunrise’s participation in the MyPlate initiative comes at a time when senior living dining services and the federal government’s dietary recommendations both are evolving, as Senior Housing News reported in a recently released deep-dive report.
“Fifteen years ago, most senior living communities offered dining services that included menus with a few (read: exactly three) choices each day representing the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Pyramid, first introduced in 1992: grains and starches; fruits and vegetables; dairy and protein; and fats, oils and sweets to be used sparingly,” the report reads. “Gone is the food pyramid, and with it, gone are the days of cafeteria-style, sometimes called ‘scoop-and-serve,’ dining options in senior living.”
Now, perhaps more than ever before, senior living residents indeed have a choice in what food goes on their plate, meaning MyPlate might be a more appropriate reminder of healthy eating than the old food pyramid. Indeed, having a variety of dining options emerged as the No. 1 senior living dining trend in a survey that SHN conducted for its report. And it’s a trend that Sunrise is embracing.
Each month, Sunrise Signature Dining offers at least 56 hot entrees, 55 alternate entree choices, 65-plus different side dishes, and 64-plus types of fruits and vegetables, according to figures from the company.
Written by Tim Mullaney