AMHERST, Mass. – Dining Services at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is one of six national recipients of the Nation’s Restaurant News MenuMasters Awards that will be given out on Saturday, May 21 at the Drake Hotel in Chicago. The awards are sponsored by Ventura Foods LLC and honor outstanding menu development as well as excellence in foodservice research and development.
Ken Toong, executive director of auxiliary enterprises, which oversees dining services on the UMass Amherst campus, will attend the award ceremony. "This is a great honor," Toong says. "I’m pleased to be representing our campus, our students, and the excellent staff at dining services who have made this possible."
UMass Dining Services won the award for its "Be Smart. Eat Smart. Live Smart," program which is designed to deliver to students both delicious food and healthy options. It features 11 steps to help customers embrace a healthy lifestyle, including eliminating trans fats, limiting sodium and sugar, offering protein from plants and fish and providing more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
The UMass dining plan has achieved positive results, including a 98-percent meal plan retention rate and customer satisfaction ratings of 8.65 out of 10.
The program was instituted during the past several years by Toong, chef Willie Sng and dietician Diane Sutherland.
"We take food very seriously here," Toong says. "Good food is a core value for our campus." He notes that kitchens use sustainable seafood along with many organic, fair-trade and hormone- and antibiotic-free foods. In addition, more than 25 percent of the total food purchased by the program is from local sources.
UMass Dining Services is one of the largest college dining programs in the country with more than $60 million in annual revenues.
UMass Dining Services is no stranger to national recognition. It won the Ivy Award, one of the most respected awards in the foodservice industry, in 2008. Each year, past Ivy Award winners nominate commercial and non-commercial foodservice organizations for the prize. Nominees are then elected by the R&I subscription pool of 154,000 trade professionals, making the Ivy Award a prestigious symbol of acknowledgment from foodservice industry peers.