Fueling fundraisers

Penn State University develops program to help dance marathon participants.

Published in FSD C&U Spotlight

THON participants cheer as the final record-breaking fundraising totals are revealed. This year, THON raised over $13 million dollars to fight pediatric cancer.

For many students at Pennsylvania State University, the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon—better known as THON—is an event that requires an entire semester’s worth of energy. A yearlong fundraiser dedicated to fighting pediatric cancer, THON culminates in a 46-hour dance marathon where 733 Penn State students didn’t sit, sleep or rest—they just danced.

That level of physical exertion requires a special diet and nutrition plan, and fortunately, Penn State Food Services was there to help out. “The students who dance at THON are altering their lifestyles; they’re not sleeping or eating for an extended period of time,” says Jim Richard, associate director of residential dining at University Park. “It’s hard to do that without a little organization, and we wanted to help.”

Although students have been dancing for THON since 1973, this year’s dance marathon—which took place Feb. 21 through 23—was the first year that Penn State Food Services had a specific THON committee. According to Richard, getting involved with THON was a natural fit for Food Services’ overall mission. “It really grew out of a desire to take care of our guests,” he says. “THON is a huge part of being a Penn State student, and all students dine with us. We wanted to support them.”

Richard also says that the department wanted to help make it easy for THON volunteers to choose foods that would keep them going during the event. One of the first things the committee did was label a selection of food choices—both in the all-you-care-to-eat dining commons and the campus c-stores—as “THON Approved” so that students could readily identify the best choices to make. Vetted by Culinary Support Services, these foods were caffeine free, low in sugar and contained high amounts of quality carbohydrates to keep up the dancers’ energy reserves.

More From FoodService Director

Managing Your Business
business ladder climbing illustration

Recruiting talent is only half the battle for Mike Folino, associate director of nutrition services at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio. Once he’s attracted good employees, providing clear opportunities for advancement can help retain them—but knowing when to bring up the topic in conversation can be tricky.

Prior to hiring

Folino likes to touch on advancement during the initial interview process, but the extent to which he does so changes case by case. “I have had interviews where we knew right away that we needed to discuss our structure and...

Ideas and Innovation
woman surprise

When I joined the staff at FoodService Director in the spring of 2015, I couldn’t believe how much there was to learn about the intricacies of the industry. My past experience, from kindergarten to my college days to on-the-job meals, would lead me to believe that noncommercial dining was a kind of automated process—an amenity that’s expected, and one you only become aware of if something goes wrong.

But as with my own household chores, there are no magical elves making sure the business of feeding students, seniors and hospital patients is done, and done well. Foodservice...

Managing Your Business
hands team

In November, students at University of Missouri in Columbia began leading protests against discrimination faced by people of color on campus—including some marches through the dining halls. Julaine Kiehn, director of the school’s campus dining services, said the 2015-16 school year was a tough one, but she was proud of MU’s students for being at the forefront of a national movement.

And not only did the protests launch important conversations with students, but also with staff. Kiehn heard the protests and thought that her student workers, at least, might not feel safe and welcome...

Ideas and Innovation

When it comes to sustainability, sometimes the smallest kitchen changes can make the biggest difference. When Chris Henning, senior assistant director of dining services for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, switched from standard latex gloves to nitrile gloves, he also set up a recycling program. Once recycled, the gloves are turned into playground equipment, bike racks and park benches.

Henning says the nitrile gloves have been a good fit for his department, both in terms of durability and cost. “Participating in the campus buying program reduces the cost, as [our]...

FSD Resources