UMass Amherst Garners Dining Award

AMHERST, Mass. - The University of Massachusetts is among the winners in the Loyal E. Horton Dining Awards Contest, sponsored by the National Association of College & University Food Services (NACUFS). Kenneth Toong, director of dining and retail food services at UMass, announced the award. UMass will receive a plaque during the organization''s national conference to be held in Calgary, Alberta, July 25-29.

The contest is a highly competitive and prestigious peer-recognition program, according to Toong. It recognizes outstanding menu cycles, presentations, special-event planning, and new dining concepts, and provides an avenue for sharing ideas and creative presentations in collegiate dining services. A total of 118 entries in five categories were received this year.

UMass was honored in the "overall program" category. Toong pointed to several dining services initiatives contributing to the win:

* a 22-day brand-new hot menu guide, in which repeat meals never occur on the same day of the week;

* a "Grab ''n'' Go" program with more than 1,000 people participating during lunch;

* the introduction of display-cooking, in which food is arranged attractively in metal hot trays along the service line. This is very unusual at facilities which must feed thousands of people at a sitting, according to Toong;

* an array of successful theme specials, such as the Taste of UMass, at which students have dinner by "grazing" through various booths at the Mullins Center; and "Jimmy Buffett Night," which features lemonade with lime slices, "Cheeseburger in Paradise," "Chicken Margaritaville" (chicken w/cilantro lime sauce), "Changes in Attitude" Stew (Jamaican three-bean stew), Mango Madness and Pineapple Patch smoothies, and "Coconut Telegraph Pie;"

* high-visibility marketing.

"An award such as this really reconfirms our belief we are right on our target to become one of the top facilities in the campus dining environment, and I am glad to be part of the process," said Toong. "Many thanks go to the talented staff and management team for their hard work and dedication, and gratitude also for the support of Ashoke Ganguli." Ganguli is director of auxiliary services, which oversees dining and retail food services at UMass.