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New Food-Services Provider Takes Holistic Approach

Food services at St. Jerome’s University has risen to a new level, creating inspired meals using locally sourced ingredients.

As a mother of five, Stacey MacPherson understands the pressures students face when they’re away from home for the first time. They get homesick and their families worry about them. That’s why she believes a comforting presence and a home-cooked meal can go a long way to create a welcoming space.

When it comes to the most basic of human needs — food — MacPherson takes her role at St. Jerome’s University very seriously. As the Chef Manager of Dana Hospitality (the University’s food-service provider), MacPherson believes that nourishment of both the body and soul is key.

“I understand personally how much we care about our children and how we want them to be successful in life,” she says. “These students are coming here, away from their family, mostly for the first time, for a long time. We want to make sure the whole experience is comforting.

“Food makes the world go round. We have to eat three meals a day to keep our bodies running at the best possible efficiency and we’re here to take care of that.”

MacPherson is tasked with fulfilling the University’s vision of nurturing the whole student, which in her context means using locally sourced and fresh ingredients, and creating chef-inspired meals from scratch.

As students become more conscious about what they’re putting into their bodies, they care more deeply about where the food comes from. Students are seeing that local, fresh food not only has health benefits, but is also great for the environment and the economy.

According to Meal Exchange – an organization who supports campus food systems that are sustainable, socially just, humane and healthy – a quarter of students polled across the country feel that the food provided to them on campus helps them stay healthy.  Only half of the students polled feel that their on-campus options actually lead to healthier bodies and minds, and support their academic success.

Dana Hospitality and St. Jerome’s University are working to change that.

In fact, for its success in raising the bar on food literacy and providing locally-grown, sustainable, healthy, and accessible food, St. Jerome’s University and Dana Hospitality were recognized in Meal Exchange's January 2018 Campus Food Report Card – Ontario universities’ most comprehensive assessment of student experience with campus food-services to date.

It is through the University and Dana’s increased transparency of where their meals originate, who the suppliers are, and which chefs are cooking, that has led to not only more positive feedback, but also to discussions around the idea that local, sustainable, and healthy food is key to wellness.


“Everything has changed,” MacPherson says. “The students now are more interested in taking care of themselves. Nothing here is taken from a box and put in the oven. Here an experienced chef with professional training and knowledge makes delicious, healthy food. Creativity is a major thing.” 

As chef, guide, and teacher of a close-knit team, MacPherson will sit down once a week and plan daily menus. It is a style that aligns with running a chef-inspired kitchen — and a way to ensure everyone on the team knows exactly what’s available and what they’ll be serving for the week. The food is bound to be delicious, with about 80 percent of everything her team makes created from scratch, including canned and pickled items, homemade jams, jellies, stocks, and tomato sauce. Dana even employs an in-house baker.

Committed to transparent reporting and sustainability, Dana proudly displays a map of Ontario in the Douglas R. Letson Community Centre and Servery, which lists the locale and/or farm where ingredients are produced, and how far they have traveled before arriving at the University.

As a nut-free facility, the Dana kitchen is also extremely vigilant about food allergies, using signage for gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan options, and colour-coded labels for potential allergens. Some students with strict dietary needs even have MacPherson’s cellphone number so that they can get in touch with her regarding requests or concerns. “I tell them to text me and I’ll do whatever I can to make a great meal for the day,” MacPherson says.



“We empower our chefs not just to cook from scratch but to source locally, as fresh as they can get, so they can rewrite the menu every week. It’s culinary freedom that’s not tied to pushing boxes.”

— Dana Hospitality Marketing Manager, Robert Raymond

Fresh, local, and made from scratch

SJU Community Centre Servery populated with Dana Hospitalty staff

How does Dana do it?

It’s a big task to run a large campus kitchen and to address the diverse student needs. Dana Hospitality does it best, and that’s why Dana was chosen to revitalize the food service delivery as part of the University’s campus renewal project last year.

Many large food-service providers take a streamlined approach, with all the food and menu direction coming from a head office. At Dana — who serves clients across Canada, including pharmaceutical firms, automotive companies, health-care operations, private schools, and universities — the opposite holds true.

Robert Raymond, Marketing Manager for Dana Hospitality, says the 27-year-old Canadian company takes great pride in doing things differently.

“Our business philosophy is very different,” Raymond says. “Traditional food service is driven by moving boxes and purchasing decisions that are made at a head office. We don’t do that. We’re about putting out the best product available.

“We empower our chefs not just to cook from scratch but to source locally, as fresh as they can get, so they can rewrite the menu every week. It’s culinary freedom that’s not tied to pushing boxes.”

Even in the winter, students at St. Jerome’s University can eat fresh and local, because Dana partners with the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Association, which grows produce all year long. 

Along with the University’s commitment to being a Fair Trade Campus, it also strives to be socially-just, while driving change throughout the food system. Working together with Dana Hospitality, St. Jerome’s University will continue to ensure that food services on campus link with our mission of holistic education that supports and improves health, sustainability, and economic goals.

“These students are coming here away from their family, mostly for the first time, for a long time. We want to make sure the whole experience is comforting.”

— Chef Manager Stacey MacPherson

Award winning food - Award winning staff

In early November the Dana team at St. Jerome’s University were pleased to announce they won the Account of the Year award for the entire Dana brand.


Not only had their work in fresh, local, and made from scratch caught the eye of the company as a whole, but also their stellar customer service and willingness to listen to the feedback given by the students put them in the spotlight.


Congratulations to our Dana team!

Statistics provided by: Maynard M, Lahey D, Abraham A. (2018). Campus food report card: The state of food on Ontario university campuses. Toronto, ON: Meal Exchange. Retrieved from

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