Campus News

UK Dining Annual Report Reflects Record Levels of Commitment to Kentucky Farms, Businesses

photo of chef grilling hamburgers in Champions Kitchen
UK Dining hits a record level of locally sourced food purchases. Here, a UK Dining employee works in Champions Kitchen. Mark Cornelison | UK Photo.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 10, 2019) — The University of Kentucky — with its dining partner, Aramark — purchased more than $2.6 million in locally raised and manufactured foods in 2018-2019 — a record level of commitment to the state’s farm and food economy and businesses, according to UK’s annual dining sourcing report.

The farm and business impact numbers reflect a 5% increase over last year, or 146% of the required minimum in UK’s groundbreaking contract with Aramark — the third straight year of continued growth in purchases from Kentucky farm or businesses.

A copy of the 2019 report can be read here: https://foodconnection.ca.uky.edu/files/anaylsis_of_uk_dining_food_sources_2019_final.pdf.

UK and Aramark have made support of Kentucky farms and businesses a key part of their partnership, which was initiated in 2015. The current performance indicators regarding these purchases were solidified in 2017 when the university, following feedback from stakeholders, eliminated from its calculation products such as Coke, which is bottled but not produced locally.

“UK’s dining partnership with Aramark has been good for our institution — higher quality and healthier food; better facilities for our students, faculty and staff in which to dine,” said Eric N. Monday, the university’s executive vice president for finance and administration. “But it’s also been good for our state’s farms and businesses. Consistent with our mission as the University for Kentucky, we are cultivating partnerships with farms and businesses in the Commonwealth. We are helping sustain these vital businesses, and we are helping them grow. That’s good for UK. That’s good for our state. That’s part of what it means to be Kentucky’s flagship, land-grant university.” 

Specifically, UK Dining purchases had more than $1.3 million total farm impact this past year, meaning a portion or a majority of the ingredients were sourced from a Kentucky farm. That’s up more than $280,000 from the previous year. And more than $1.1 million in purchases came from Kentucky owned and operated businesses — more than double last year’s total of about $540,000.

Highlights of the annual report include:

  • 12% of total purchases coming in part or mostly from Kentucky-based farms.
  • 11% of purchases coming from Kentucky-owned businesses or state-located food processors.
  • Initiating a salad bar program, the culmination of a multi-year effort to provide both greens and other produce from Kentucky farms for two residential dining hall salad bars throughout the academic year.
  • Sub-contracting with three local, independently owned restaurants — Athenian Grill, Atomic Ramen and Taste of India — to provide food at stations in two residential dining halls — a new program. This initiative accounted for more than 65% of the business impact purchases for this past year. 

“We are proud of the progress that has been made with our farm-to-table program,” said Vigg Pulkit, resident district manager for UK Dining. “That amount of collaboration and partnership that has been built to make these programs a success is a milestone of institutional food procurement. These multi-level efforts on the part of our suppliers, the University of Kentucky, and our campus chefs, have had a significant and measurable impact on the community and on the quality of our dining program.”

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion two years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. The Chronicle of Higher Education judged us a “Great College to Work for,”  and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for three straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.