A Dining Commons Designed Around Healthy, Sustainable, Delicious Food

A Dining Commons Designed Around Healthy, Sustainable, Delicious Food

Recently, UMass Amherst was ranked the 9th healthiest college in the U.S—and second healthiest public university—according to Greatist.com. Our wellness programs and our devotion to serving healthy food contributed to the recognition. Yet while we are honored, we still have work to do to create the ultimate healthy dining experience on campus. So as we finish up the renovation of the Hampshire DC (to be completed August 15 and opening September 1), we’ve decided to make this DC our ground zero for creating and serving healthy, sustainable food. We also want it to be delicious, and comparable to some of the best food served around the nation. This is a lofty goal, but it’s within our reach.

For the past few years, UMass Dining has worked hard to advance the cause of providing great-tasting, healthier food choices on campus. We revamped recipes and concepts, and installed a “stealth health” program with a focus on serving small plates with big flavor. We reduced sodium by 30%, promoted entrées with lean protein, and encouraged students to eat more fruits and vegetables. And we’re doing all this while supporting sustainable foodways. To certify our food, this past January we partnered with SPE Certified, a third-party food certification program that focuses on sustainability, health, and taste. We are the first university in the nation to have an independent food certification of this kind.

But like I said before, we can always do better. And so, we have decided to put to use 24 principles outlined in the Menus of Change 2013 Annual Report, a guide created by a partnership between the Culinary Institute of America and the Harvard School of Public Health Department of Nutrition. It’s was created to help chefs design healthier and environmentally sustainable menus, and we’re applying them to how we source and prepare food for our UMass customers.

The principles include: using whole, minimally processed foods; selecting plant-based items, decreasing red meat on the menu, serving sustainable seafood; reducing sugar, turning to healthy oils and fats, sourcing peak-of-season produce, leveraging world cuisines, and offering healthier beverages. Our chefs and managers are working hard for this upcoming semester to design menus, test recipes, source foods, and order the necessary equipment to make it happen.

We promise we will continue to improve the food offerings at UMass. With your help, our Hampshire DC—and someday the entire UMass Dining Program—might become the healthiest, most sustainable and delicious dining program in the nation. 

This Ken Toong. Thank you for keeping UMass Dining at the top.

You can contact Ken [email protected]

Blog Category: 
Author Name: 
Ken Toong
Author Title: 
Executive Director Auxiliary Enterprises

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE/UMASS DINING OPERATIONS FAQ: UMass Dining is committed to the health & safety of our students, faculty and staff. We are following guidelines set by our local, state and national health officials; we routinely monitor our dining facilities; we have implemented additional sanitation measures to ensure customer safety; and we are in constant contact with the campus community.