Michigan Dining earns two national awards for sustainability efforts, creative catering

Michigan Dining outdoor dinner event

Editor's Note: Michigan Dining later won the 2023 Sustainability Grand Prize from the National Association of College & University Food Service for their carbon labeling initiatives. Read the full story in the Campus Dining Today magazine

June 1, 2023
By Ella Loveland

Michigan Dining is receiving National Association of College & University Food Services (NACUFS) awards in recognition of sustainability and event catering, respectively. 

MDining earned the gold NACUFS award in outreach and education for its comprehensive campus sustainability and social responsibility efforts and the bronze Loyal E. Horton Dining Award for innovation in event catering.

MDining, a unit of U-M Student Life, employs more than 500 staff who work in the nine residential dining halls, more than 20 retail locations across campus and catering service.

Outreach and Education in Sustainability 

MDining earned a gold award, the highest honor, for their work with the Graham Sustainability Institute's Carbon Neutrality Acceleration Program (CNAP) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on campus through initiatives like carbon labeling and “Sustainable Mondays.” 

Launched in January 2022, carbon labels now appear on residential dining hall, retail and catering menu signage to encourage and educate the U-M community to make sustainable food choices. 

“The project of carbon labeling our menus supports the efforts to be socially responsible while contributing to environmental sustainability,” said Keith Soster, MDining’s director of sustainability, student & community engagement. “Michigan Dining is proud to support academic and student engagement through research collaborations that contribute to our campuses' sustainability goals.”

MDining engages the campus community through partnerships with multiple U-M programs. Working with the student-led U-M Sustainable Food Program and Food Recovery Network (FRN), MDining serves fresh, local produce and to collect and donate surplus perishable food to people in need. 

MDining’s residential dining halls also serve as a test kitchen for potential social change. A cross-collaborative team of U-M researchers found that MDining’s “Sustainable Mondays” initiative—where chefs replaced red meat with lower-emission proteins, like poultry or plant-based proteins, across the nine residential dining halls—could help reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions. The results offer one potential path for other university food service units looking to introduce more environmentally-friendly operational practices. 

MDining’s myriad environmental efforts and programs advance U-M’s commitment to fostering a universitywide culture of sustainability. The carbon labeling initiative builds upon universitywide carbon neutrality goals, including commitments to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from purchased electricity by 2025, eliminate emissions from campus sources by 2040, and set goals by 2025 for a wide range of indirect emissions categories—so-called Scope 3 emissions. Emissions resulting from university food fit into the latter category.

Special event in Catering

Michigan Dining received a bronze 2023 NACUFS Loyal E. Horton Dining Award in the catering special event category for its 2022 Culinary Council Chefs’ Summit event. This annual, multi-day event brings chefs from across the country to Ann Arbor to receive hands-on training from MDining’s Big Ten-best of 18 certified executive chefs. This recognition highlights exceptional efforts in creating and executing events with the highest level of attention to detail, creativity and service.

"Receiving this award is a huge honor for Michigan Dining’s Catering Department," said Devon Janks, director of Catering Operations. "Our team continues to push the boundaries and create events that go beyond our clients' expectations. This award is a testament to their hard work, dedication, and passion for providing the best possible experience for our guests."

MDining partners with the industry publication, FoodService Director Magazine, to curate the two-and-a-half day, on-campus culinary experience. The signature event is a dinner at the U-M Campus Farm, featuring a menu inspired by Michigan agriculture and produce grown at the farm. 

MDining will receive their awards in July at the annual NACUFS conference.


For inquiries about MDining's catering services, please visit https://catering.umich.edu/contact.