Live for Life—Duke’s employee health and wellness program—partnered with the American Heart Association to sponsor a hearty but healthy culinary competition between Executive Chef Ben Adams of local restaurant Piedmont and President of Duke Hospital Kevin Sowers. Spectators got to sample each chef's autumnal side dish, and then vote for their favorite by donating to the American Heart Association.
Sowers said he chose to participate because he enjoys combining his passion for food and health in his own cooking, while Adams said he identified with the event's purpose as Piedmont offers a selection of fresh, farm-to-table options.
In light of a recent Nutrition Action Health Letter by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which gave the United States a grade of B- for fruit and vegetable consumption, Live for Life is strengthening its goal of making healthy food more available to Duke employees, said Diana Monroe, health education specialist with Live for Life.
“People think that they are doing good, but they are not,” Monroe said in response to data showing a decrease in Americans’ vegetable and fruit consumption since the 1980s. “Having access to healthy foods is the most important thing. We don’t say no to other foods, though…. Just everything in moderation.”
Members of the Duke community gathered despite the rainy skies and were able to sample the dishes prepared by Adams and Sowers and cast a vote for every dollar they donated to the American Heart Association.
Adams's dish reflected a balance between tastiness and health, combining smoked bacon with glazed butternut squash, charred arugula and locally made cheese.
Although some samplers said they were initially skeptical of Sowers' culinary skills, his arugula, sweet potatoes, blueberry and fresh corn and goat cheese salad dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette met with positive reviews.
One comment card reflected Live for Life’s struggle to get staff members to choose healthy options: “Kevin, yours was healthier but Ben had me at the bacon.”
After three hours of friendly competition, the results finally revealed: Adams won with 251 votes, compared to Sowers' 199. The money donated for each of those votes will go towards the Live for Life team participating in the Triangle Heart Walk on September 22, which benefits the American Heart .
Duke’s Farmer’s Market is doing its own part in battling heart disease—the number one killer of North Carolinians—by making nutritious lunches easily accessible to employees, Monroe said.
Lisa Waldmann of the Duke Hospital Center looks forward to the Farmer’s Market each Friday, which she and her coworkers refer to as “Salad Fridays.”
“Every week we buy olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice from the market and buy fresh ingredients for lunch from the different stands,” Waldman said.
The Farmer's Market also has healthy options for those in a time crunch, with ready-made salads available and vegetarian and vegan meals from vendor Pom Kitchen.
Because the market is advertised mainly to Duke employees and is on Research Drive—far from most student activity—few students are aware of the opportunity. Freshman Kailen Malloy expressed her disappointment that the market is not advertised to students.
“I’m a vegan so it can be really hard to find fresh and delicious meals that I can eat at Duke," Malloy said. "Last week I had to drive to the Farmer’s Market in [downtown] Durham to get produce and it would’ve saved me a lot of time if I knew about this on-campus event.”
The final farmer’s market of the year will be held October 4 from 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. on Research Drive between the Bryan Research Building and Nanaline Duke Building.