FSD's 20 Most Influential

Inaugural list identifies those people having the biggest impact on non-commercial foodservice.

Ken Toong
Executive Director of Auxiliary Services,
University of Massachusetts,
Amherst, Mass.

It’s exhausting for us as trade journalists to keep up with Ken Toong, so imagine what it’s like for his staff. Toong has turned the dining services department into a renowned entity—in 2011 alone UMass Dining was honored with three national awards. During his tenure at UMass, Toong has increased meal plan participation from 8,900 students in 1999 to 16,075 in 2011. While many operators may have accomplished similar feats, the difference is Toong is eager to share what he has done in order to help others reach similar heights.

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We started inviting chefs and FSDs from other districts to come prepare lunch. Through featuring different chefs and chef-inspired meals, I’ve found the students have been looking forward to coming into the cafeteria. They are willing to try new things with crazy names, and to ask for their favorite outside items turned healthy.

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I’ve created a high school “focus group” to see what future college students will want in terms of foodservice. This year, I called up two now-seniors from the last group to get 10 of their friends together. I also include a sophomore or two so that I always have a contact for next year. Tapas, grain bowls and late-night breakfast all originated from this group.

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This summer, we teamed up with a church to deliver meals to three housing projects. We brought the meals to the church, and then the church recruited volunteers to deliver the meals to the children. We’ve been very impressed with this new model, and it shows great promise in getting meals to children who otherwise would not be able to leave their housing project.

Industry News & Opinion
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