- Spotlight - News
Ali Evans is Improving Nutrition for Students Across the Country
Nutrition and wellness are at the heart of every meal provided by the teams across Elior North America. The finished products for our clients go through rigorous research and testing with teams of chefs and dietitians.
One of those dietitians working to better the nutrition for students in our education segments is Ali Evans, Director of Nutrition for Aladdin Campus Dining and Lexington Independents.
Ali has a storied history at Elior North America, spending time in every area of the business, learning the ins and outs. As a result, the students her teams serve are getting the best options for their meals each and every day.
Ali recently sat down with Elior North America Communications Manager, Michael Steen, to talk about her background at Elior, and what the work of a dietitian is really like.
MS: First off, same question we ask everybody. Where did you grow up and what was your favorite part about growing up there?
AE: I grew up in northern Minnesota about two hours north of the Twin Cities on a YMCA camp. My dad was the property manager there, which just gave me a ton of experiences and exposure to things that I wouldn't have had otherwise. It was unique, and my favorite part of growing up there was we had access to horses. The camp had a horse program, and I was a very horse-crazy young girl, so I got to take care of them. Then eventually I became a camp counselor, and I taught riding lessons.
MS: Can you tell me about your specific role here are Elior North America?
AE: I am the Director of Nutrition for Aladdin Campus Dining and Lexington Independents. We fully support that education segment and my role with my team is to support everything around nutrition and wellness, as well as our food service systems.
MS: Can you tell me about your journey and how it has brought you to where you are at Elior North America?
AE: I have been around for a very long time. I started my official career as a dietitian with a legacy Elior company and I started right out of my internship as a clinical dietitian in a long-term care setting in Saint Paul. It was something that I never thought I would do, working in a nursing home, and ended up loving it. So many stories and it was a really good experience, but I needed something new after a couple of years. A DM was the one who said to me that I should be a food service director. I said there is no way I can do that job, it is so hard, but she convinced me and I ended up loving it. I loved the chaos, the kitchen flow, all of it. I did that for a number of years and then moved on into the correction segment and so worked at on our dietitian team, you know, with all the regulations and the menus in that setting. I then moved into a dietitian role that worked with business dining, corrections, healthcare, Education and K-12. Being a part of and managing that dietitian team with all those segments, you learn a lot you get exposed to a lot. And then in 2019, I moved into my current role with Aladdin.
MS: You’ve obviously worked across a lot of the different segments. I'm curious how does your thought process around nutrition and wellness change between segments?
AE: It varies a lot. Some segments have a lot of nutrition and regulation. Healthcare has to make sure we're serving and meeting the needs of the elderly population, but then corrections is another industry that's highly-regulated, so that one can get a little tricky. Dietitians in those segments spend a lot of time working with menus and building our menus in our recipes based around a specific nutrient profile that we're looking for, whether it's macronutrients or micro. Then it's a little different in education where we're always working as dietitians with federal programs.
MS: Can you talk about the differences between nutrition and wellness in your role, and how they also work together?
AE: I tend to view nutrition as very food based. So, cooking recipes, we're looking at nutrients, whether it's carbohydrates, protein, or specific things like calcium or vitamin D. Wellness is more of an umbrella term. Dietitians would love to be the leaders, and we are absolutely the experts in that field, but it also has a lot of people that love the topic but might not have the schooling and expertise behind it.
MS: In terms of your role with nutrition and wellness, how do you work with other segments and just how does your role factor into the larger Elior North America picture?
AE: We are now with Aladdin and Lexington as K-12 has joined us. We've become sort of this super segment of education. There's a lot of business in those three and we're able to collaborate a lot with various people all over the organization. From the nutrition side of things, my team especially works really close with Sheri Nelson on the Impact team as well as the chefs to just make sure we're putting out recipes and developing programs that help support nutrition and wellness, support education, but also support the food solutions and procurement teams.
MS: When you’re not working, what would we find you doing in your spare time?
AE: Probably in the kitchen. I really like cooking, baking, and I also love to garden. People say we sort of turn into our parents when we get older and that is becoming more true. Both of my parents are excellent cooks, and we grew up gardening. Now I’m gardening in a suburban backyard where there's a lot of space. Starting seeds from scratch is also another thing I enjoy. I love finding new heirloom seeds and increasing that seed diversity and biodiversity that we need in our food supply.