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STEWARD STORY: Nourishing the Campus Community

Dean Wright and Cosmo

February 2022 — Support. Sustain. Share. For BYU Dining Services Director Dean Wright, the phrase is more than just a catchy slogan on the back of his Jeep; it’s a campus commitment and a personal quest. Inventor of Cougar Tails and the Choices restaurant concept in the Cougareat, Wright has made lasting contributions at BYU, but he’s most proud of having helped bring people together—“breaking bread,” he calls it—through food.

Previously at BYU-Hawaii, Penn State, and Utah State, Wright traveled to Washington, D.C., in 1996 to discuss childhood hunger with members of Congress. “To see any child go hungry is upsetting,” he says. Joining BYU a year later, he increased the school’s support for local food banks and students in need. “I hate to see any waste in my department,” he says.

Under Wright’s leadership since 1997, BYU Dining has grown not only more socially impactful, but also more environmentally sustainable. “It is no small thing to be made stewards of the Lord’s house and caretakers of his creations,” reads a statement Wright crafted with his leadership team in 2012. “BYU Dining Services strives to fill this responsibility through the purchase and use of products that are safe for consumption, support local sustainability efforts, and demonstrate a commitment to stewardship.”

Examples abound. BYU sources nearly one-third of its food from local farms, ranches, and dairies, an impressive statistic given BYU’s size. While improving freshness and lowering emissions, these efforts also sustain regional partners, many of whom were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which shut down farmers markets at BYU and elsewhere. Pulping, composting, and tray-less dining reduce waste and emissions. High-tech appliances save water and energy. And plant-based menu offerings, such as those at Choices, support healthy, sustainable dining.

Wright will retire in 2022, but he leaves a legacy, having taught us, in the words of Brigham Young, that a man worth millions of bushels is not wealthy enough to sweep a single kernel into the fire. “Let it…pass again into the earth,” Young said, “and thus fulfill the purpose for which it grew. Remember it, do not waste anything, but take care of everything.”