The University of Kentucky Food Connection serves farmers, food producers, students, and consumers by developing solutions and creative strategies for a vibrant, healthy, sustainable food economy in Kentucky.  

The Food Connection supports our land-grant mission through three key areas of work: interdisciplinary and innovative instruction, high-impact service and outreach, and cutting edge research on foods and food systems.  Our work aims to enhance student expereience through enhancing the on-campus dining experience, and through enriched learning environments that set students well along their professional pathways within food systems and beyond.

The overarching goal of our work is to enhance the production, distribution and consumption of healthful Kentucky grown and produced food by members of our on- and off-campus communities, thereby enriching our Kentucky economy, community, and environment.  We engage community partners (farmers, political leaders, service providers), cooperative extension, and faculty in shaping and implementing our goals and programs and work to facilitate collaboration and development across all sectors of our food system.


The agreement between the Universityof Kentucky and Aramark to operate UK Dining was preceded by an open process of discussion, on- and off-campus, about the potential implications of outsourcing.  Among the issues considered were the future commitment of Dining Services local, sustainable food sourcing and continued integration and collaboration with our land-grant mission of instruction, research and outreach.

The final agreement, implemented on July 1, 2014, contained several elements intended to address these and related issues.  Notably, the contract committed $5M over the 15-year term to create what was initially named The Food Institute.  A Kentucky Proud Partnership term in the contract also provided for an annual allocation to support the development of local food sources and increase their position in the UK Dining market. 

Representatives of the UK administration, Aramark, and the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment developed an initial working plan outlining the mission and scope for what would become the The Food Connection. The plan addressed both the Food Institute and Kentucky Proud Partnership elements of the UK Dining contract. UK administration reviewed The Food Connection proposal, and President Eli Capilouto approved it in August, 2014.

In September, 2014 at groundbreaking for a new commons, The 90, it was announced by President Capilouto that a venue for The Food Connection, along with classrooms and a home for Living and Learning Programs would be included in this new dining facility arising from the UK Dining contract.

Operations of The Food Connection got underway following identification of the initial leadership team of Dean Nancy Cox; Melody Flowers representing the EVP for Finance and Administration; Scott Smith as faculty director; and representatives of the Aramark transition team.  Upon his arrival, UK Dining Resident Manager, Jonathan Parker assumed the latter role.