2013 Year in Review: Green Dining, Wellness, and Delicious Food

2013 Year in Review: Green Dining, Wellness, and Delicious Food

How quickly a year goes by. We looking forward to welcoming the New Year and wish you and your family all the best in the coming months.

During this time of the year at UMass Dining, we reflect on what we accomplished in 2013 and what we hope to achieve in the coming year. 2013 proved to be an abundant year for successes. We promoted sustainable and delicious eating, and we enhancing our dining programs and facilities by providing more variety, more dining experiences, and more convenience. These ongoing efforts help to ensure that we maintain a great dining program in 2014.

We are grateful for the partnerships within the university and with our suppliers that make these improvements possible, and we look forward to continuing our work together in 2014.

I have taken a few moments to reflect on the some of the significant events of 2013:

January: Starting the Renovation of the Hampshire DC

The much-loved Hampshire DC was constructed almost 50 years ago, and most of the mechanical equipment in the building had served us well—and well beyond their expected lifespans. But the completion of the new Commonwealth Honors College Residential Complex (and its additional 1,500 beds), combined with the overcrowding of the popular Berkshire DC, made it necessary for us to start renovating the Hampshire DC. Our intention was to expand the foodservice concepts while providing additional seating.

February: Flavors of Canada

On February 5th at the Berkshire Dining Commons, UMass hosted 10 chefs from five Canadian universities in Quebec, Ontario and Saskatchewan. Assisted by our own UMass Amherst chefs, these “neighbours” from the north created dishes for the Flavors of Canada event. This gathering of chefs—the largest Canadian college chef gathering in the U.S.—succeeded in introducing our students to a slice of Canadian food and culture. (Canada is not only our northern neighbors but also our country’s largest trading partner.) The Flavors of Canada event, which is part of UMass Dining Services’ Visiting College Chef Series, has become one of our most popular guest-chef events.

March: “Best Campus Food” Showcase with Chefs from Top-Ranked Schools

This month brought more guest-chef events. On March 5th at the Berkshire Dining Commons, we hosted chefs from six schools listed in The Princeton Review’s 2013 edition of its annual best college rankings for Best Campus Food. Participating chefs came from Bowdoin College, Virginia Tech, Cornell University, Bryn Mawr College, and Notre Dame, and were joined by our own culinary team. It was such an honor to host these great culinary programs under our roof, and our students were elated with the variety, flavor, and quality of the food they sampled.

April: The State Dinner

More than 300 graduating seniors at the University of Massachusetts Amherst attended a White House-style “state dinner.” The evening was replete with a four-course meal, a presidential red carpet, and an honor guard of ROTC cadets.

May: Silver Plate Award

I was honored to receive a 2013 Silver Plate Award from the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA) category representing “colleges and universities.”

June: Chef Culinary Conference and Permaculture Conference

Over 300 chefs and managers gathered at UMass to advance the cause of serving sustainable, healthy, and flavorful food on campus. The conference featured educational and hands-on sessions on food sourcing and culinary development as well as a closer look at the green movement.

July: Loyal Horton Award and the 25 Healthiest Colleges in the U.S

At the NACUFS conference in Minneapolis, UMass Dining received two awards in the segment of retail dining and nutritional promotion. In addition, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst came in 9th on Greatist.com’s “25 Healthiest Colleges in the U.S.” According to the site, our dining hall menus have more in common with fancy restaurants than cafeterias.

August: Top 3 Best Campus Food

“UMass Amherst Campus Ranks Third Nationally for Best Food,” says The Princeton Review. UMass was the only Massachusetts school to make it to the top 10 in the publication annual college rankings for food quality. This was UMass Dining’s second year to be ranked as the number-three school in the nation in this category.

September: Grand Opening of Hampshire DC and Roots Café, and the World’s Largest Fresh Fruit Salad

After nine months of remodeling, the Hampshire Dining Commons reopened September 10th. We renovated the facility with the goal of making it one of the healthiest and most sustainable dining operations in the nation. The same month, we opened Roots Café at the new Commonwealth Honors College Residential Complex. It garnered rave reviews for its fresh food and just-in-time cooking.

And…we did it again! We broke another world record by creating a 15,291-pound fruit salad, assembled in a swimming pool with 150 varieties of fruit (mostly local varieties), with the help of 500 volunteers and staff. As a result, we shattered the Guinness World Records' record of 11,192 pound fruit salad set by McGill University in Montreal in 2012.

October: The Real Food Challenge

Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy signed the Real Food Challenge Campus Commitment. By committing to the challenge, he pledged that by 2020 our campus will serve at least 20% Real Food (food that is local, sustainably grown, humanely raised, and fair trade). UMass is still the largest institution to sign the Real Food Challenge.

November: Kendall Foundation Grant

The Henry P. Kendall Foundation of Boston granted $485,000 (parceled out over the next two years) to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  The grant will allow us to find and cultivate new suppliers of whole, local, and environmentally sustainable foods on an unprecedented scale and assist us in developing a model for other universities to follow.

December: # 1 in 50 Best Colleges for Food in the United States for 2013

This is hot off the press. University Primetime ranked UMass Dining #1 in its 2013 ranking of 50 Best U.S. Colleges for Food.

But the best is yet to come.  

Happy New Year to all! And thank you for keeping UMass at the top.

This is Ken Toong, you can contact Ken at [email protected]

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Ken Toong
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Executive Director Auxiliary Enterprises
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