Over 1,000 people representing almost two hundred academic institutions and 330 exhibitors converged on Anaheim, California for the National Association of College & University Food Services’ National Conference for three days this past July. The annual NACUFS conference was focused on exploring new food trends, connecting with peers and bringing together industry and institutional members to work on elevating collegiate dining.
Tri-State institutions were well represented at the Conference through member attendance and members of the NACUFS Board of Trustees. Attendees had a myriad of opportunities to accomplish the ambitious agenda set forth by NACUFS. The most popular events were break out sessions of smaller groups where members could choose which educational session they wanted to participate in. Attendees’ favorites including the “Creating Culture”, “Ancient Grains”, and “Train the Trainers” sessions. Others including Student Employment and Social Media sessions were also immensely popular.
“We created a conference this year that supports our members and gives them the ability to talk to each other and share their experiences to better their own operations,” says Amy Beckstrom, the new President of NACUFS. After their members indicated to them that they desired even more peer-to-peer meetings than last year, NACUFS responded by making it the focus of the event. This shone through in the post-conference survey where members ranked the value of connecting, learning from peers and the sharing of experience as the top three takeaways from the conference.
Beyond the smaller educational sessions NACUFS brought in researchers and their own industry members to help educate institutions on innovative solutions to providing sustainable food, conquering meal insecurity and choosing better quality proteins. These topics reflect what is trending in the larger food service industry, a purposeful move by the conference to equip NACUFS’ members with everything they need to return to their institutions and stay up to date.
“We have received great feedback from our members about how many innovative new solutions and dining trends they learned about and can now implement,” said Beckstrom, beaming about what was part of what she called a “fantastic success” of a conference.
Perhaps most importantly, NACUFS welcomed nearly 300 new attendees whom they introduced to the conference at the beginning. They linked them up with more senior members of NACUFS to form early bonds and connections and have a peer guide to walk them through the conference.
“It can be a bit overwhelming for first-time attendees because there is so much to do at the show. So it is great that we pair them with other members at the beginning of the conference,” says Beckstrom. Drawing in new members from the industry provides them with opportunities that non-members could never take advantage of, however it also makes NACUFS stronger due to better representation and a more diverse membership pool.
There is little doubt in the mind of attendees or NACUFS leadership that the conference was a home-run success. As they look forward, President Amy Beckstrom and the rest of the Board of Trustees will be working to follow up and expound upon the knowledge gained from the conference and continue to fulfill the needs of their members.