Our unsung heroes

Our unsung heroes

At UMass, I’m often asked the following questions: How many meals does UMass serve each day? How do you know how much food to prepare without running out? How do you maintain quality levels? What do you do with the leftovers?

These are all great questions. As the second-largest campus dining operation in the nation—we have 16,000 students on a meal plan—we have a lot to coordinate to make sure everyone gets a satisfying meal. These are questions that we grapple with each day. But even though we serve more people than most foodservice establishments, we still focus on one meal at a time as much as possible. To do so, we have a staff of more than 700 full-time employees and 1,700 students. They are UMass Dining’s unsung heroes. 


Our staff members love their work and take pride in serving customers. They do their job day in and day out (some have been with us for more than 25 years), and they always serve customers with a smile—even in less-than-ideal circumstances. During recent snowstorm Nemo, the campus closed Friday afternoon, but our job of cooking for students couldn’t be put on hold. To satisfy demand, we housed 80 employees at the UMass Hotel. This ensured that we had enough staff on hand to get breakfast started on Saturday morning, even if the roads still were closed. No one complained about the extra-long day. Even though many on our staff have family and young children (and arrangements had to be made for their care), they willingly stayed to ensure we could open the next day.


I’d like to personally thank a few of our storm heroes:


Chris Fisher, manager of our food truck, Baby Berk: Chris battled blizzard conditions to keep Baby Berk in working order, and it operated under its normal hours during the storm.


Pam Adams, assistant bakeshop manager: Pam came in early Saturday morning to set up coffee and muffins at 4 a.m. for the snow removal crew.


Glenn Cavanaugh, warehouse supervisor: On Friday, Glenn set up a special delivery of paper goods for each DC in case there was a power outage. Additionally, Glen's team made sure that all deliveries were on time despite poor road conditions.


Brian Baily, maintenance team member: Brian assisted dining services with a particularly special delivery. The UMass operator in Lederle could not leave her post—she was the only one on duty—and needed food. Brian made a special run to drop off a meal for her.


Meredith Schmidt, director of the campus center: Meredith is my right-hand person for emergency preparedness. Dining services needed to park Baby Berk on the concourse in front of Hampden, but the area wasn’t plowed. Meredith connected with Physical Plant and explained the situation. The area was plowed in time for Baby Berk to serve lunch Saturday.


Kimberly McCallister, Berkshire supervisor:  Kim organized the hot chocolate table in conjunction with Baby Berk to encourage students to come out of the buildings and clear off their cars.


These are just a few of our unsung heroes during the storm. There were many more—and you know who you are! We say thanks to all of you, especially our staff who spent the night on campus or made their way to work after the storm. Our success as a dining operation depends upon a great staff, and in this regard, all of you are my heroes.


This is Ken Toong and thank you for keeping UMass Dining at the top.

Contact Ken at [email protected]

You can follow Ken Toong on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/KenToong

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.