Mary Lou Kennedy: Handle With Care

Mary Lou Kennedy is all about providing care. Whether it's taking care of others or taking care of business, Kennedy has had the opportunity to use her caregiving attitude to great effect during her 20 years as director of dining and bookstore services at 1,700-student Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. Originally trained as a registered dietitian, Kennedy's strong organizational skills and a desire to satisfy customers at every opportunity have turned Bowdoin's program into one of the best foodservice operations in the country, according to the Princeton Review.

"When I first came here, the employee procedures were very ad hoc," Kennedy says. "For example, in dining they would just write a new menu off the top of their heads each week. So when I came in I wanted to get a rotating menu going. But they insisted it would take away flexibility, when really they had been repeating themselves by coming up with a new menu on the spur of the moment. So I think I contributed a lot of organization. If you get enough structure around the day-to-day routine, then everyone will be open to change because you're not dealing with day-to-day craziness."

It was Kennedy's organizational skills that got the department through a time of tremendous growth. Bowdoin used to have several fraternities on campus that fed about one-third of the students. When those fraternities closed, Dining Services had a sudden influx of students that hadn't been dining with the department. This, along with growing enrollment, changed the focus of the dining program to a more culinary-minded approach to satisfy students. In the past 10 years, Kennedy has increased revenue 62%.

"Mary Lou definitely has her eye on the big picture," says Michele Gaillard, assistant director. "This isn't to say she doesn't get involved in the day-to-day operations, she actually seems to be everywhere at once. She makes us aspire to do more than what is right in front of us."

Bowdoin College Organic GardenGreen thumb: Kennedy's ability to see the big picture served her well when a student approached Dining Services about creating an organic garden, long before gardens became the trend du jour on college campuses.

"The Bowdoin organic garden seemed like a completely crazy idea five years ago," Gaillard says. "Few of us in the department had the vision of what it could be. Mary Lou was not deterred and fought hard every step of the way. Now, we all bask in the glow of our beautiful, abundant garden that helps fulfill our sustainability commitments, but without Mary Lou, it would just be a mound of dirt."

The college now has two organic gardens that cover an acre of land about two miles from campus. Kennedy says during the short Maine growing season, the garden can provide 14% of Dining Services' produce.

"Our top five crops last year were salad greens, tomatoes, broccoli, basil and beans," Kennedy says. "We planted 21 high bush blueberries two years ago and look forward to our first crop this year. Because of the short season, we have a small greenhouse for getting some seedlings started and we're hoping we can build a larger greenhouse. Meanwhile, we're trying to do more freezing of items for use later."

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

This semester, the East Quad dining team at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is taking steps to offer more authentic global cuisine , Michigan Daily reports.

The team has partnered with the Office of Student Life to start a conversation with students on how best to create and serve Middle Eastern and North African cuisine. Additionally, the university invited chefs from Japan and India to campus to help its chefs create more authentic recipes.

The school’s push for more accurate global cuisine was partially inspired by an international food event that got cancelled...

Industry News & Opinion
Madison food truck

The Madison Metropolitan School District in Madison, Wis., has partnered with a local organization to debut a food truck that will serve healthy, locally sourced lunch options for Madison high school students, according to The Capital Times .

The truck, which was donated by the Emmi Roth Cheese Co., will visit four high schools Tuesday through Friday, spending a day at each campus. Students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch can use the food truck as they would the school cafeteria for no-cost or discounted meals.

Members of MMSD and partner organization REAP Food...

Industry News & Opinion

Identifying prospective employees may be less challenging for foodservice operators than getting would-be recruits to complete the hiring process , according to a new study of why job applicants bail.

The report shows that nearly three out of fours applicants (74%) will drop their effort to be hired if they suspect management is racist, and two out of three (62%) will flee if they learn of sexual harassment allegations. Roughly the same proportion (65%) will halt their pursuit if they encounter indications of a gender gap in pay.

About half (45%) of candidates won’t show...

Menu Development
zoodles

Here’s how two operations are spotlighting produce this season.

Oodles of zoodles

Binghamton University underscored its growing focus on plant-based options with a recent zoodle pop-up on campus. The pop-up, which served vegetable noodle bowls in vegan and vegetarian varieties, sold out of the dishes in four hours. The Binghamton, N.Y., school aims to add zoodles to its regular menu in the fall.

A buffet boost

The dining team at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, recently re-evaluated its buffet offerings with an eye toward adding healthy options. It updated the fruit and...

FSD Resources