A Q&A with our new Manager of Nutrition and Wellbeing: Michele Lefebvre, RDN

We’re very excited to announce the hire of campus dining rockstar Michele Lefebvre from Cornell Dining to our team here at Barilla. Many of you already know Michele from campus dining circles, and if you don’t, here’s your introduction! You’ll hopefully get to see her soon on a campus visit or on the road at an event near you.

What is your role at Barilla?

I am the Manager, Nutrition and Wellbeing for Barilla America.  Essentially, I cover the Americas region, but I work closely with the Barilla global Nutrition & Wellbeing team establishing nutrition and wellbeing goals and programs to support Barilla and its products across the globe. 

After working at Cornell University for so many years, how have you seen the dietary needs and wants of college students change?

Students’ dietary needs have changed drastically as well as their interests and desires.  During my 10-year tenure at Cornell University, we almost quadrupled the number of students we worked with that had special dietary needs.  Any college and university dining program needs to be flexible and open to working with diverse student populations, but it’s worth the challenge because this is where the next generation of trends are coming from. 

Also, students are so much more educated and intentional about their food choices.  Sustainability and plant-based is top of mind, but they want to make sure the companies they purchase from are authentic and truly “practice what they preach”.  Ultimately, flavor continues to be important – they don’t want to just eat it because it’s good for the environment…they want to make sure it tastes good too! [Editor’s note: more on Generation Z and their preferences here.]

What brought you to Barilla?

Growing up as an Italian American, this iconic brand is very close to my heart.  In my time at Cornell University’s Dining program, we served Barilla on campus, and organized many Barilla experiential programs for the students. Every time I had a question, needed product information, or wanted to collaborate, the Barilla team was extremely responsive and always had a positive, can-do attitude.  I was immediately attracted to the enthusiastic and passionate environment!  When my family moved less than 10 miles from the Barilla America office, it all started to come together.  I feel very excited for this opportunity and look forward to being part of the global nutrition and wellbeing team.

What inspired you to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist?

I love food!  I spent many hours in the kitchen with my maternal Grandmother.  Her love language was food!  She was Italian; we made meatballs, lasagna, Italian red sauce, known popularly on the East Coast as “gravy.”  There was never a Thanksgiving meal without a lasagna featured!  In middle school, I declared I would become a chef, but when it finally got to decision time, I chose a university path to study hospitality.  Once I took my first nutrition course, I was hooked!  I changed my major immediately and haven’t looked back.  But throughout my career as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, I have always tried to connect the joy of food with the important nutrition elements.  

What is your favorite Barilla pasta?  Why?

Honestly, my favorite Barilla pasta is Protein + Penne.  This pasta type hits so many nutrition goals and tastes so great!  As a good source of protein, it’s pack filled with a variety of plant-based proteins – including lentils, peas, and chickpeas as well as a variety of whole grains – and it’s a good source of fiber.  Plus (pun intended), it’s so versatile; my whole family loves it!  I think it’s a great choice for families – for those that want to try some legume-based pastas but aren’t quite sure how everyone in the family will adapt.