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Kendall Foundation grant supports UMass sustainable food system

Collegian File Photo

Collegian File Photo

The Henry P. Kendall Foundation of Boston has awarded the University of Massachusetts a $485,000 grant to continue their efforts toward increasing the production and consumption of local, sustainable food. The grant will be distributed to the University over the next two years with the goal of transforming the sustainable food landscape across New England.

According to a news release, the Kendall Foundation’s long-term goal is “to create a resilient and healthy food system in New England that increases the production and consumption of local, sustainably-produced food.” The Kendall Foundation targeted UMass Amherst as a leader in the movement toward whole, local foods, which they hope will one day spread across New England.

Rachel Dutton, sustainability manager for UMass Auxiliary Enterprises and project manager for the Kendall Grant project, regarded UMass as the ideal recipient for this award for a number of reasons, including its “reputation for quality, innovation and sustainability and economies of scale.” UMass dining is the second largest food service provider in the nation, said Dutton, and can therefore utilize this grant at a large scale.

“We have a comprehensive plan to use the financial resources responsibly,”  Executive Director of Auxiliary Enterprises Ken Toong said. “We will be able to create several positions for staff support and research, transition food costs and provide marketing/scholarships for two conferences.”

Toong also provided an official breakdown of the grant: $200,000 will be spent on food costs while UMass transitions to acquiring more local food; $185,000 will be for staff support and consultation; and the remaining $100,000 will be directed toward educational materials, speakers and scholarships for the Chef Culinary Conference and for a re-visioning of the Sustainability Conference.

Much of the grant money will be dedicated to transforming Hampshire Dining Commons into a “premier campus eatery dedicated to sustainability, health and wellness and to provide a defensible and cost-effective example for all campuses to emulate,” Dutton said. “We plan to use Hampshire Dining Commons as a kind of testing grounds for sourcing local food and developing healthy and sustainable menu items.”

In addition to this grant project, UMass Dining is working on a number of other projects directed toward improving sustainability. “Sustainable UMass” is one of the more recent projects with a goal of sourcing at least 20 percent of UMass Dining food with “Real Food” by 2020.

Support for sustainability is common across campus. Both Dutton and Toong noted enthusiastic students as a major contributor to the large sustainability movement at the university.

“I find that students are a huge catalyst for institution-wide sustainable change,” said Toong.

Toong also noted UMass’ dedication to supporting the environment, saying, “We know that our campus needs to do our part to build healthy communities and ecosystems in the world. It’s simply the right thing to do.”

Sustainability is also rooted in the academics here at the university as a core value.

“We have over 200 faculty conducting research within various sustainability categories, including food, climate change, energy, water, policy and built environment,” Rachel Dutton said. “We’re always open to suggestions if students would like to propose further sustainability project ideas.”

Katrina Borofski can be reached at kborofski@umass.edu.

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