Food for Thought

Rocky Horror Picture Show, feeding college students, and improving local farmers’ lives. Innovator Mark LoParco, Director of University of Montana Dining at the University of Montana in Missoula.


  • Mark’s interest in local foods was sparked by his trip to Italy. Describe a delicious dish you have enjoyed that included locally produced food. Please share what sparked your interest in consuming and/or growing local foods?
  • Does your university or college have a Farm to College Program? If it did or does, what benefits do you see to having one?
  • Mark reports that University of Montana food costs are at or below the industry standards despite widespread concern that buying local foods would be more expensive.  Please share your reaction and thoughts about this fact.
  • Do you ask about local foods or wine when you go out to eat? If so, what has your experience been like? If not, would you be willing to do so as a result of seeing this video?


  • Does your local college or university have a Farm to College program?  If not, there is a resource guide for people interested in moving local foods from Farm to Institution Guide.
  • Invite friends, colleagues, or community members to view this video with you and host a conversation.
  • Or you may want to invite colleagues or fellow students to watch this interview with Mark to spark fruitful discussions . Mark also indicated his interest in sharing information with folks so please contact him: LoParco, Mark [email protected] 
  • Invite friends, colleagues or community members to view this video with you and host a conversation.


Agribusiness is a broad concept used to describe corporate agricultural enterprises individually and collectively. What is your knowledge of agribusiness and its positive and negative effects on food production? Read more about the 10 companies that control world foods.

The University of Montana as a major purchaser of foods expanded significantly the farming of local produce and pastured beef in Montana.  Farmers came together forming  Western Montana Growers Cooperative, which allows the university to go to one source instead of 30 or 40 farms for produce. . Kathryn Shattuck in her article on Benefits of the Herd in the September 28, 2014 issue of the New York Times reports on the formation of the Adirondack Grazers Cooperative, which markets and sells beef for its 36 members in New York. Farmers and Grazers’ cooperatives are a growing force in the food production industry.  Please share your knowledge and/or experience with such cooperatives.


Mark LoParco is director of UM Dining at the University of Montana, and is the executive director of the UM Foodservice Management and Purchasing Consortium.  An active member of the National Association of College and University Food Services since 1986, Mark is currently serving as president of the association. As a pioneer in collegiate food service sustainability, Mark frequently presents at regional and national conferences. His leadership in sustainable business practices earned him the inaugural Greening UM Award in 2004.  At the heart of UM Dining’s portfolio of sustainable business practices is the UM Farm to College Program, a revolutionary local food-purchasing initiative which supports Montana’s agricultural economic development.

In 2014, University of Montana Dining Service won a Gold award in the NACUFS Sustainability Awards Program in the category of Education and Outreach and also won the Grand Prize which is awarded to one of the Gold award winners from all five sustainability award categories.