2014 Silver Plate: Mark LoParco

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

Published in FSD Update

“Mark is highly energetic. He is high energy, he is a thinker, he’s innovative,” shares Teresa Branch, Ph.D., vice president for student affairs. “The student body has gotten behind [the program]—who wouldn’t appreciate fresh food? Of course Mark has always provided outstanding meal options for the student body. It’s not unusual to get steak, shrimp and a variety of things that when I was in school, I certainly don’t remember. He’s able to do a fantastic job of providing meals for our student body. It’s a rare complaint that I get, and the complaint is almost never about the food.”

Along with the Farm to College Program one of LoParco’s initiatives has been planting a campus garden. “We have very strong student support for what we’re doing, and by that I mean that each of the last three graduating classes, for their class legacy project, have all been programs in UM Dining,” he says. “I’m able to look out my window here and there’s a greenhouse sitting there that was built in part with student funds. There also is a solar array that is going to be on the top of the building here—[student] funds were donated toward that. And then this year they’re donating funds towards a food washing station in conjunction with the garden. The students have been very, very supportive, and supportive with their dollars, in terms of our sustainable business practices.”

Campus and beyond

LoParco’s passion has inspired more than Montana’s students. As executive director of the UM Food Service Management and Purchasing Consortium, LoParco provides administrative and financial leadership for dining services at all four UM affiliate campuses. As NACUFS 2013-2014 president, he leads his peers in foodservice. And through service on community boards, he serves the areas surrounding the university and his home.

“I still get really excited to come to work. There’s so much to do, there’s no shortage,” LoParco says. “I’m involved on campus in a wide variety of areas … there’s a lot to keep me busy and I tend to stay busy.”

For operations looking to increase the use of local and sustainable foods, LoParco recommends starting with the “low-hanging fruit. So what’s closest and what’s available enough in quantities that can make a difference. The key is to look at what’s available and in what radius,” he says. “Any time I talk with folks, [I] encourage personal activism. That’s as simple as when you go out to eat, just ask what’s local on the menu and buy it. You can be personally involved in your local food movement.” 

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The menu served at Ottawa General Hospital in Ottawa, Ontario, is headed for an overhaul after its CEO and management team ate a strict hospital food diet for a week and were unhappy with their options. The foodservice department has been fielding patient complaints for years, but decided to take action after facing the issue head on.

“Getting food managers to eat three meals of hospital food a day for a week brought the point home that much of the food being served was bland, institutional and not what people would normally eat,” Director of Food Services Kevin Peters told Ottawa...

Industry News & Opinion

With overtime pay likely to become a reality for some salaried foodservice employees after Dec. 1, operators are rethinking what they expect managers to do off-site as part of their responsibilities. Answering email or scheduling shifts at home didn’t matter when the employees were exempted from overtime if they earned more than $23,660 per year. But with that threshold more than doubling on Dec. 1 to $47,476, a half hour spent here and there on administrative tasks could push a salaried manager over the 40-hours-per-week threshold and entitle him or her to overtime. And how does the...

Menu Development
frozen raspberries

“As a chef, I pretty much have grown up through the business thinking that fresh was always better—produce, fish and meats, especially,” says Ryan Conklin, executive chef for UNC Rex Healthcare’s culinary and nutrition services. “But the more ‘re-educated’ I get, the more I’m learning that some frozen options may be more appropriate for me to be using on my menus.”

Right now, the perception of frozen foods doesn’t match the reality, especially for high-volume foodservice operators, says Conklin. Often, chefs and operators picture not-great product that’s been sitting in a block of...

Sponsored Content
Roasted Beet Salad Pickled Blueberries
From Blueberry Council.

What’s trending in the culinary world? The basics! According to the NRA, diners today are craving authenticity, simplicity and freshness on menus. But basic ingredients don’t have to lead to boring menu options.

It’s easy to fall into the latest craze to capture consumer attention and drive sales. But we’ve learned it’s not always about novelty. Instilling a feeling of nostalgia and familiarity by using well-known and well-loved ingredients in new, experimental dishes can lead to an increase in adventurous dining decisions, while staying in your customers’...

FSD Resources