50 stories in 50 years

Food Management has been covering the onsite foodservice market since before it was called that. When the premiere issue came out in August 1972, the accepted terms were “institutional” or “non-commercial” foodservice, which perfectly described the approach at the time: basic food volume produced and mostly served on cafeteria steamtable lines like the one that served as the setting for the food fight scene in Animal House.

The challenge the magazine took on—and continues to face—is the fragmented nature of the onsite dining universe, divided as it is into markets with their own specialized requirements: K-12 schools with their federal meal regs, hospitals with their need to feed in-patents as well as staff and visitors, colleges with their meal plans, etc. Indeed, the publication itself was the result of combining three previously separate titles: School & College Food Management, Hospital & Nursing Home Food Management and Plant & Business Food Management.

However, while FM has striven to tailor custom editorial to each of these markets, it has from the start also embraced the philosophy that while there may be much to divide the onsite dining community, there is also much that units it.

Prominent among these is the emphasis on serving healthy, nutritious food, something addressed right off the bat by the cover story of the first issue, which explored “The Dramatic Age of Nutrition” and the then-emerging science of nutrition. Five years later, FM sponsored the first-ever get-together of the presidents of the major non-commercial foodservice associations to discuss their common interest in nutrition issues, something that became an annual event through the end of the century and soon spread to other topics of mutual interest.

These included the growing commercialization of “non-commercial” foodservice, the impact of technology on operations, the changing tastes of customers and the wellness and sustainability issues that have become so prominent across all foodservice markets today. Of course, there was also the growing rift between self-operation and contracting that still remains a source of contention.

Through it all, FM was blessed to have editorial leadership from the likes of Bill Patterson, Donna Boss, John Lawn and Becky Schilling, each of whom during their tenures as chief editor had a firm grasp on the issues of their times and guided editorial policy and coverage to best meet the needs of readers across all onsite dining markets.

Today, FM continues to operate with that vision, documenting the changes imposed on the industry by a world-wide pandemic and by growing social awareness of the connections between health and diet and between food policies and the health of the environment, and highlighting solutions and best practices for its readers.

The magazine’s traditional monthly print installations were phased out at the start of the current decade and FM has been an all-digital publication starting in January 2021 in response to the preferences of its audience. Going forward, it will continue to offer that audience incisive editorial coverage supplemented by multimedia extensions such as podcasts, videos and webinars.

To celebrate this landmark anniversary, FM has put together a compendium of 50 of its most significant cover stories from its print days, divided into five galleries of 10 stories each from the five decades in which it published. They range from coverage of topics either to individual markets or the entire onsite dining community, to landmark issues such as the first issue, the first Presidents’ Conference, the 25th Anniversary issue with its history of the industry and the first Top 50.