Campus Auxiliary Services took an initiative in fall 2012 to expand its special diet, allergen-friendly and healthy options with a goal of heightened transparency for students regarding ingredients and nutritional information. Registered Dietician Cory Hancock is an influential driver of this shift as CAS’ nutrition and wellness coordinator in a brand new position that she said is “still evolving.”
Started last semester, Hancock said that the new position involves one-on-one meetings and communication with students with dietary concerns and questions, on-campus health and wellness promotion and menu expansion.
One of Hancock’s biggest tasks so far has been re-evaluating CAS’ labeling of foods, especially those snacks and dishes that are meant to be vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free, noting that it was student feedback that helped them to realize that labels were not accurate enough.
“I’ve taken over that process and in the past semester I’ve been able to look at all the labels and assess them for their accuracy,” she said.
Hancock said that student feedback is “really taken into consideration” when developing menu options, citing its Facebook page and surveys as some of the most important assets in CAS’ interpretation of student satisfaction with the on-campus eateries. The demand is greatest, she said, for allergen-friendly and specialty diet options.
“It’s the little tweaks that get huge responses,” she said, “like taking cheese out of something to make it vegan or adding an oil and vinegar option for dressing.”
Hancock has worked side-by-side with CAS’ culinary team to analyze ingredients of both prepared dishes and outside products, adding that her job as nutrition and wellness coordinator is “really about being the go-to person to determine if something is allergen-friendly or not” and that she “takes away the burden from the chefs.”
But Hancock realizes that although she promotes healthy lifestyle and diet, “Being a nutritionist isn’t about being a food police.”
She said that she often deals with that balance between “those students who ask for more bacon and those who ask for more vegan options.”
Hancock said she is looking forward to working with chefs at campus events including free samplings of new menu options for students. The chefs, she said, are “well-versed” and their extensive culinary backgrounds can ensure future cooking demonstrations as well.
Hancock graduated from James Madison University in Virginia with a bachelor’s degree in dietetics and then fulfilled a dietetic internship through the University of Buffalo where she ultimately completed her registered dietician exam.
The campus community, Hancock said, is a shift from her previous position as nutrition educator at the Steuben County chapter of the nonprofit government agency Women, Infants and Children. There, Hancock, also a certified lactation consultant, worked with infant and preschool-aged children in “very general” family check-ups.
“With this position I’m able to do a lot more with nutrition itself whereas before I was doing more with overall health and wellness with children,” she said, adding that here, she feels “really lucky to be able to be in the position and to be impactful as a nutritionist because I’m working with such a receptive group of people.”