(Photo Courtesy of UMass Amherst)
By Matthew Stromski, MOTT Intern
Students at UMass-Amherst are reaping the fruits of a great education, and they are also eating extremely well, according to the Princeton Review’s The Best 382 Colleges: 2018 Edition, which ranked UMass Dining the #1 Campus Food in the nation for the second consecutive year.
After cracking the Princeton Review’s top ten in 2012, the dining program jumped to #3 in 2013 and 2014, reached the #2 ranking in 2015 and 2016 and eventually took the top spot in 2017 and 2018.
News about the schools #1 ranking has traveled far beyond the Western Massachusetts campus. After the announcement, UMass chefs Robert Bankert and Anthony Jung appeared on NBC’s “Today Show,” which averaged 3.61 million viewers and had the highest morning show viewership among the 25-54 demographic in the month of July.
UMass Amherst honored for Best Campus Food by The Princeton Re…In case you missed it, UMass Dining chefs Bob Bankert and Tony Jung presented their award-winning food on the Today Show yesterday as UMass Amherst was honored for Best Campus Food from The Princeton Review – College and Beyond for the second straight year. Go UMass and Go UMass Dining!
Posted by UMass Amherst on Wednesday, August 2, 2017
No one is more overjoyed with the honor than the passionate, dedicated and hardworking UMass Dining crew of 782 full-time employees across campus, who are complimented by a staff of about 2,000 students.
“We are so proud and honored,” said Ken Toong, Director of Auxiliary Enterprises at UMass, “We have built a strong student food culture of serving healthy, sustainable and delicious food, one meal at a time.”
UMass Dining holds itself to the highest standards throughout the entire academic year, as opposed to some schools that roll out the dining hall red carpet only for special events. As Toong notes, “we do not want the food to be better on parent’s weekend.”
Every year, UMass Dining takes pride in creating new recipes, asking parents of students for their own recipes to use in the dining commons. The school uses anywhere from 200-250 parent submitted recipes every year, and creates cook books of the best recipes that parents give them. Overall, UMass Dining goes through 3,000-4,000 different recipes every year.
“The whole goal is to offer a variety of food that tastes good and is good for you,” Toong says.
The success of UMass Dining is also a bonus for the local economy in Western Massachusetts, since the program uses locally sourced food to serve students. In the past year, UMass has used 45 vendors across Massachusetts to purchase $2.4 million in locally sourced food. The dining program looks to keep increasing that number, and hopes to become the national model for sourcing local food, purchasing chicken, lean protein turkey and fresh fish among other products.
Czajkowski Farm in Hadley has been doing business with UMass Dining for the past 16 years. During the academic year, Czajkowski Farm makes five deliveries per week to campus, bringing food to all four dining halls. UMass chooses from 27-30 different items that the Farm can grow, while occasionally UMass makes special requests that the Farm grows specifically for the program. The partnership helps with jobs on the farm and keeps the money in the community, and saves on transportation costs by not having to ship the food in from other parts of the country.
“I’m impressed,” Joe Czajkowski, an owner of Czajkowski Farm expressed, “They run an incredibly well run food service, probably the best we deal with, (and) they make the best food.”
UMass Dining is a $69 million enterprise that serves between 45,000-55,000 meals per week, and anywhere from $5.5-6.0 million meals per year. In the 2016-17 academic year, the undergraduate population at UMass was 21,734 students, with over 88% on a UMass Dining meal plan.
Of the 2,000 student employees, 72 are student supervisors/interns/managers who use their experience with UMass Dining towards a potential career in hospitality or retail dining. The students in the Hospitality & Tourism Management program at UMass, which is ranked #13 in the nation by The Best Schools, greatly benefits from working with the dining management at UMass.
“We are coaching them”, Toong says proudly, “What students learn from us is some of the practical day-to-day management skills.”
Is there a connection between the school’s dining accolades and student enrollment?
In a survey conducted in fall 2016, UMass Dining found that 70% of students said that food was an important factor in their choice to attend UMass-Amherst.
The dining commons on campus are open daily from 7:00 a.m. until Midnight, and some retail dining, such as food trucks, are open as late as 3:00 a.m. According to Toong, students on the unlimited meal plan eat 4.5 meals per day from UMass Dining Services.
When Toong and Garett Distefano (Director of Residential Dining Services) speak with parents of new students, they often hear the parents express that the food at UMass-Amherst is what put the icing on the cake for their child to attend the University.
Matthew Stromski is a student at UMass/Amherst and a summer intern at Mass Office of Travel & Tourism & the Mass Sports Marketing Office.