AMHERST, Mass. – Many UMass students know and brag that their dining is ranked best in the country. Many UMass students do not know, however, that UMass Dining is actually expanding to its sister school, Westfield State University located in Westfield, Mass. Supported by a $250,000 grant from the Henry P. Kendall Foundation, Westfield State plans to adopt UMass Amherst’s award-winning dining program that has provided healthy and sustainable meal options to UMass students while purchasing from local and regional providers.
With the new program, both students and faculty at Westfield State will be getting healthier and more seasonable offerings. This new dining program will also be giving many more employment opportunities for workers. Many workers from UMass Dining will be transitioning to Westfield State to help get the program started, as they have experience in the UMass food system already. Other workers from the Westfield area and beyond can also apply to work in the dining halls and help get the new system started. Many students at Westfield State will also be given the opportunity to work in the dining halls plating food, serving food, and cleaning. This will be a good opportunity for students to earn some extra money that also mimics UMass, where many students work in the dining halls to keep up with the high customer demand.
When asked about this new expansion many workers in UMass Dining already seem to be excited about the change. “I think it’s a great idea. Everyone loves UMass Dining and the healthy options we offer so it will be beneficial for many people to expand,” said Berkshire Dining Hall Manager Ryan Pipczynski when asked about the change. “A lot of dining halls are less fortunate when it comes to their food options, so this will be an exciting new change for them.”
Westfield State’s previous food program was Sodexo, a food service company that partners with both public and private school districts to provide meals. Much of their food comes already prepared and frozen, whereas the new program with UMass will focus on the importance of fresh and local food. Much of UMass Dining’s food comes from locally sourced farmers and growers in Hadley and beyond. These farmers and producers will now be helping provide to Westfield as well.
Westfield State’s Director of Dining Services Andrew Mankus emphasized just how excited Westfield is for this new opportunity. “We are beyond thrilled for this new transition. Here at Westfield, we serve hundreds of students in the dining halls each day. This change will only bring in more and more students, both on-campus and off. We are also thrilled to be able to provide them healthy, sustainable, and local meals. The emphasis on local has been getting a lot of great feedback from people in our community,” he said when asked about the change.
The official launch of the new dining program is slated for later this summer. With this, Westfield State is predicting an increase in their students signed up for meal plans plus an increase in overall satisfaction given the improvement in their dining services.
“It will be good for employment opportunities. Both adult workers and student workers will get a big gain at Westfield State,” another manager of Berkshire Dining Hall Luanne Wu said. “We are looking forward to the expansion and all the opportunities it is going to bring.”
This Westfield State partnership is the latest extension of UMass Dining to share its successful practices. More recently, UMass Dining has been working with a Chicopee elementary school to create permaculture gardens and related educational activities.
On Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017 more than a thousand students walked through the doors of Berkshire Dining Hall in the span of 3 hours, according to Manager Ryan Pipczynski. This dining hall is the most populated on the UMass Campus.
UMass Dining puts an emphasis on the importance of serving locally grown and healthy food. In Berkshire Dining Hall, healthy starches and veggies are always featured. On Monday, Feb. 27, 2016 the featured vegetables and starches were carrots, parsnips, beets, and mashed potatoes. These specific foods were all sourced from a local farm in Hadley, Mass.
One sophomore Jamila Mwangi works in Berkshire Dining Hall at UMass Amherst to make some extra money between classes. On Friday, Feb. 24, 2017 Mwangi worked serving a locally grown tomato and corn salad to hungry guests.
UMass Dining prides itself on serving healthy, local, and antibiotic-free food. Signs like these can be seen hung up around all on-campus dining halls to remind their guests of these promises.
Fresh vegetables can always be found at the stir fry lines at UMass Dining halls. On Monday, Feb. 20, 2017 new vegetables were added to the rotation- mushrooms and peppers. All of these vegetables come from local farms in Hadley, Mass. Westfield State University will be helped out by farmers in Hadley to supply fresh vegetables and fruits just like they do for UMass Dining Services.