20 Most Influential: Students

Students have become the customer of every segment of non-commercial foodservice.


Students have become the customer of every segment of non-commercial foodservice. They directly influence the operations at K-12 schools and universities through tastings, student dining committees, social media and a variety of other channels. Operators in healthcare and B&I realize that today’s students are their future customers, so keeping up with student demands is imperative to keeping their operations current down the line.

What is most inspiring about today’s students is their ability to band together and instigate real change. One great example was born out of tragedy. After Hurricane Katrina many students had to go to other schools outside New Orleans. The NOLA kids observed what went on in these other districts and decided to form a group called The Rethinkers, with the hope of implementing change back in New Orleans. One of the areas the group focused on was school lunch. They created report cards for school lunch based on student surveys. The group eventually signed a deal with Aramark to bring fresh, local produce to 37 schools at least twice a week. The group was featured in HBO’s “The Weight of the Nation” documentary.

Like the kids in New Orleans, today’s students are the driving force behind much of what creates trends in the industry. Students demand authenticity, so operators answer with theme dinners, ethnic-focused dining halls, food trucks and international guest chefs. Students care about the environment, so operators plant campus gardens, switch to compostable disposables, go trayless, ban bottled water or petition for responsible purchasing. 

Foodservice Director has undertaken a bold initiative by identifying people who we believe are having the biggest impact on non-commercial foodservice. Our list may surprise you and should certainly intrigue you. Our honorees have backgrounds as varied as their personalities. They range from the father of the modern-day food truck to the wife of a sitting president. They include operators and suppliers, chefs and consultants, CEOs and civil servants. There are traditionalists and there are mavericks. Well-known names share space with hot newcomers. In all, 17 people, two groups of individuals and one institution compose the list. It’s time to meet FSD’s 20 Most Influential.

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