2014 Silver Plate: Mark LoParco

LoParco’s passion at Montana is inspiring students, colleagues and communities.

Published in FSD Update

Raised in upstate New York, Mark LoParco’s interest in sustainable food systems began early in life. “I grew up in a family of 10 and lived out in the country and hunted and fished and did those kinds of things, and still do,” he explains. This agricultural upbringing, paired with a sixth-grade geography lesson that introduced LoParco to Montana and the state’s vast land mass ratio, set him on the course for a future of food in the West.

From the ground up

Today you’ll find LoParco at the helm of University of Montana Dining, a department that LoParco, as its first and only director, played an integral role in establishing. “Basically this department was built literally from the ground up by me and my staff over the 22 years that I’ve been here,” he explains. With no best practices in place, “we were serving food and that was about it. There were no policies and procedures; it was just a ton of work.”

But LoParco and his team did the work, and then some. Today, the department boasts an annual budget of $12 million with more than 500 employees and serves more than 5,000 meals per day.

Among the long list of achievements during LoParco’s tenure, including multiple sustainability initiatives, department rebranding, facility renovations and re-engineering of meal plans, is the Farm to College Program established in 2003. Under the program, fresh, locally grown and processed foods are brought to campus through direct relationships with local farmers, ranchers and businesses. More than $800,000 in Montana-produced foods are purchased each year, supporting the state’s agricultural economy while satisfying and inspiring students. The initiative received more cachet when LoParco and colleague Neva Hassanein, professor of environmental studies at the university, gave a recent TEDx Talk about the program. TED is a nonprofit “devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks,” according to the organization’s website.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Amherst-Pelham Regional School District in Amherst, Mass., is updating its lunch debt policy to no longer single out students, MassLive reports.

Under the new policy, students with lunch debt will be given the same meals as their peers, regardless of how much they owe. School officials will also be communicating directly with parents of students who have accumulated debt instead of through the students themselves.

The updated policy comes just before U.S. school districts will be required to publicly list their lunch debt policies, per new USDA requirements starting July 1...

Menu Development
eureka

Since California’s state motto is “Eureka!” it seems fitting that a recent conversation with the director of hospitality at San Diego’s Palomar Health led to the biggest aha moment I’ve had in a long time.

I called Jim Metzger in late April with the purpose of discussing Palomar’s recent commitment to the goal of making 60% of its total menu plant-based by this summer. It seemed a lofty number, and I was curious how the public health system planned to get there.

But my personal eureka didn’t come while we were talking about how Palomar had cleaned up the impulse-buy zones...

Industry News & Opinion

Labeling foods with indulgent buzzwords such as “sweet sizzlin’” and “crispy” can lead consumers to make healthier food choices , according to a recent study out of Stanford University .

In the fall 2016 study, researchers labeled vegetables in one of the school’s dining halls using terms from four categories: basic, healthy restrictive, healthy positive or indulgent.

The green beans, for example, were listed as “green beans” for basic, “light ‘n’ low-carb green beans and shallots” for healthy restrictive, “healthy energy boosting green beans and shallots” for healthy...

Ideas and Innovation
sparkling water

Our carbonated soft drink sales at Earls.67 reflect a national trend; we’re continually down on carbonated soft drink sales by 8% to 9% on an annual basis,” says Cameron Bogue, beverage director at the contemporary-casual chain Earls Kitchen + Bar.

The issue with spa water

Many operators are intrigued with the offering, but they are learning that infused water can’t be offered at a cost to guests unless there is added value beyond cut-up fruit. Bogue says, “I was adamant that I didn’t want to charge for spa water.”

Agua fresca alternatives

At the original location of

...

FSD Resources