UMass Dining Services Awarded $319,000 to Support Use of Kelp

AMHERST — UMass Dining Services has been awarded $319,000 by the Henry P. Kendall Foundation for its “Strategies to Onboard Kelp into College Dining Programs” project.

Between 2013 and 2020, the Kendall Foundation’s gift of $1,395,000 supported UMass Dining’s commitment to local, healthy and sustainable sourcing. As an example, the Real Food Challenge initiative of 20% ‘real food’ by 2020 — a goal UMass Dining exceeded, achieving 29% — was supported by this funding. In addition, the grant supported infrastructure improvements, relationship building, promotional campaigns, local partnerships, innovative programs, and regional convening for key stakeholders.

Ken Toong, executive director of Auxiliary Enterprises, is excited and proud of his team, noting that “we’ve been fortunate and grateful to have the Henry P. Kendall Foundation’s support for many years. Our team, even through the pandemic, never lost sight of our mission and continued to source from our local partners. It’s a great opportunity and an honor to be able to partner with Atlantic Sea Farms to continue to push the needle for more local, sustainable, and healthy items to add to our menu.”

This two-year project will introduce nutrient-dense, regeneratively grown New England kelp into the UMass Dining program as a choice for students and an opportunity for climate action. UMass Dining is partnering with New England-based Atlantic Sea Farms on the project as an innovative leader in the kelp industry on the East Coast. Atlantic Sea Farms offers not only kelp products, but expertise in the climate impact of growing and eating kelp, as well as the volume necessary for a large campus dining program. This partnership with Atlantic Sea Farms will drive normalization and inclusion of kelp on university menus.

Briana Warner, president and CEO of Atlantic Sea Farms, is excited about the partnership and what the future will hold. “We are really excited to work with the incredible dining team at UMass to introduce fresh, regenerative kelp to students. College students are increasingly aware of the choices that we make every day that affect their health and the environment, and we are creating an entirely new food system here in New England that is helping communities not only adapt to climate change, but also mitigate some of its effects. By partnering with UMass, we are hoping to help give students tasty, healthy ways to incorporate Maine-grown, fresh kelp into their everyday lives so we can all, together, create a more resilient and climate-friendly food system.”

Along with recipe and concept development, UMass Dining plans to engage students by integrating kelp into its Low Carbon Dining campaign and its Diet for a Cooler Planet campaign. This project aims to lay the path for replication so that kelp can be introduced to menus in college and university dining programs across the country.