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6 ways Ken Toong and UMass Dining plan to preserve food culture, student experience this fall

In a back-to-campus season different from all others, the always-pioneering dining program at UMass is developing a plan with an eye on convenience, value and above all, the one-of-a-kind dining experience this program has become famous for.

If you know Ken Toong, executive director of auxiliary enterprises at UMass, you’ll find that he always has a mission in mind, and the end game is usually excellence in college dining. Now, he’s striving for that same excellence with many added obstacles thanks to the pandemic.

“Our mission now is to figure out how the dining experience can bring the community together now,” Toong says, adding that now, before classes resume “we know there will be less revenue and less students on campus, so how will we drive revenue and continue the experience and create value?”

Between 6,000 and 7,000 students are expected on campus this semester—compared to the usual 13,000—and this means part of Toong’s mission is to attract more students and faculty from off campus. All of UMass’ dining halls will be open, with most major retail locations opening as well.

The dining team surveyed students about what they look for when on campus, and found some commonalities: “getting quick, fast, convenient food,” Toong says. Curbside pickup will be added to allow students to avoid the parking garages. The campus food truck will have a resurgence. In addition, c-store/grocery offerings like fresh whole food items will play a bigger role this year.

And finally, there’s a big surprise coming in September, a new dining center. Read on for more details.

Contact Tara at [email protected].

Follow her on Twitter @Tara_Fitzie.

TAGS: Coronavirus
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