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

Sponsored Content
WinCup foam food containers

From WinCup.

Cost control.

Two little words that are essential to every foodservice director’s day-to-day activities.

Keeping costs in check is paramount in running a functioning food operation, of course. But the ripples of cost control can extend beyond your bottom line. And savvy directors must balance customer satisfaction on the P&L sheet.

Fiscal Responsibility

The foundation of cost control is accepting fiscal responsibility, which requires a solid understanding of foodservice accounting. Prime cost, the combined cost of food and labor, is an...

Industry News & Opinion

Orange County Community College in upstate New York is replacing its dining staff with vending machines , The Times Herald-Record reports.

The staff members, who will be let go in June, include nine full-time and three part-time workers. Students say they will miss the employees and the access to fresh food.

The Orange County Community College Association, which oversees the school’s cafeterias, says the layoffs were partly due to a $150,000 deficit accumulated by foodservice operations last year.

Read the full story via The Times Herald-Record .

Industry News & Opinion

Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, is eliminating paper cups in its Commons dining hall and has given each student a reusable stainless steel mug as a replacement, bates.edu reports.

The mugs were distributed via a promotion earlier this week where students could fill their new mugs with a free smoothie. Stickers and other trinkets were set out for students to use to “bling” their mugs.

Dining services turned to students to determine which type of mug would be offered. The college also installed a mug-washing sink in the dining Commons earlier this year.

Read the...

Industry News & Opinion

Compass has partnered with Jose Andres ’ ThinkFoodGroup, allowing the chef and foodservice vendor to collaborate at such venues as stadiums and college campuses.

“With this partnership, we have the opportunity to tell stories and connect with people through food on an entirely new level,” Andres said in a release.

The three-year team-up comes shortly after Andres opened a ThinkFoodLab pop-up in Washington, D.C., which will serve as a recipe R&D space for his restaurant group.

ThinkFoodGroup was this year named a Power 20 multiconcept operator by Restaurant...

FSD Resources