Kennesaw State named National Restaurant Association's Innovator of the Year

Farm to Campus to Farm

University wins Innovator of the Year and Operator Innovations Award for Sustainability Click here…

Georgia (May 20, 2013)

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KENNESAW, Ga. (May 20, 2013) — It was a clean sweep for Kennesaw State Saturday night, as the university won two national awards from the National Restaurant Association the “Innovator of the Year” and Operator Innovations Award for Sustainability.

Citing its “comprehensive, closed-loop waste management program” and “Farm to Campus to Farm” initiative, this is the first time an educational institution has been selected to receive the prestigious Innovator of the Year award.
“It is an incredible honor to be the first university to receive this prestigious national award,” Kennesaw State President Daniel S. Papp said. “This award recognizes the leadership and excellence that are the hallmarks of KSU’s culinary sustainability program.”
The innovative restaurant operators were revealed in Chicago, at “Destination: Celebration,” the gala event for the 2013 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show. Selected by an independent panel of expert judges, the winners were recognized in five categories for their achievements in driving advancement in the foodservice industry.
Winners in each of the five award categories of Food Safety, Health & Nutrition, Menu Development, Sustainability and Technology were eligible for the Innovator of the Year award.
“The NRA awards are like the Oscars of food service,” said Gary Coltek, director of Culinary and Hospitality Services, which operates the University’s campus farms and manages the Farm to Campus to Farm initiatives. “This award truly speaks to the direction that college and university food service has taken over the past few years. A strong component of our sustainability program is education and outreach, and this award has given us the opportunity to promote what we’re doing and hopefully motivate other operators to do the same.”
In claiming the Innovator of the Year title, Kennesaw State bested Walt Disney Parks and Resorts in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., the Operator Innovation Award for Technology winner; and the U.S. Air Force, the Operator Innovation Award for Health & Nutrition winner. Other finalists included Ninety Nine Restaurants in Woburn, Mass., the Food & Safety winner; and HMSHost in Bethesda, Md., the Menu Development winner.
“These restaurant operators have found solutions for their businesses with programs and initiatives that combine creativity and hard work,” said Jeffrey W. Davis, convention chair for NRA Show 2013 and IWSB and CEO of the United States Beef Corp. “The 2013 Operator Innovations Award winners redefine how the industry views innovation, and will serve as benchmarks for other operators to apply the same innovative spirit within their own operations.”
In naming Kennesaw State a finalist for the Operator Innovations Award for Sustainability, the National Restaurant Association cited: “The University’s 5,000 guest/day dining operation incorporates a comprehensive, closed-loop waste management program through a variety of efforts, including a robust organic "Farm-to-Campus-to-Farm" program, water reclamation, aerobic digestion, composting/recycling programs, oil-to-biodiesel conversion and more to significantly reduce costs, minimize environmental impact and qualify the facility for a LEED Gold certification.”
The National Restaurant Association recognition is no flash in the pan for Culinary and Hospitality Services. Beginning in 2011, Kennesaw State was ranked among the top 25 schools for best food by Newsweek. That nod was followed by a string of accolades beginning last summer when Kennesaw State joined Stanford and the University of Massachusetts in receiving top honors from the National Association of College and Food Services (NACUFS) for sustainability outreach and education. In September, The Daily Meal, an online publication dedicated to culinary trends and news, ranked Culinary and Hospitality Services 10th in its “52 Best Colleges for Food in America.” Kennesaw State last month received a prestigious NACUFS Loyal E. Horton Award for its dining hall, The Commons.
“While Kennesaw State seeks to make a substantial impact on our campus, in our community and across the globe, we strive to reduce any negative impact on our environment,” President Papp said. “Along those lines, we recently launched anew bachelor’s degree in Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality that moves the farm-to-table concept from the plate to the bottom line, looking at the economic advantages of implementing sustainable practices throughout the food service industry.”
As part of the new degree program, students will complete their internships in The Commons, which will include the opportunity to harvest honey from 42 bee colonies and grow heirloom varieties of vegetables and herbs across Kennesaw State’s three campus farms.
"Graduates of our program will have a competitive advantage in the job market because they will have experiential learning in managing a facility at the top of its game," said Christian Hardigree, founding director of the Institute for Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality.
Kennesaw State University is the third-largest university in Georgia, offering more than 80 graduate and undergraduate degrees, including doctorates in education, business and nursing and a new Ph.D. in international conflict management. Kennesaw State is a comprehensive, residential institution with a growing student population of more than 24,600 from 130 countries.


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit