It’s possible to change with the times and be a model of consistency – so says the leadership team that runs Valley Services, the Mississippi-based company that feeds students and faculty at Hinds’ cafeterias but also caters many of the college’s special events.
This year’s Alumni Service Award recipient plans to keep delivering champion service to the college, based on a commitment that dates to 1971. This is the first time Hinds has named a company, instead of an individual, as the recipient.
“It’s an honor for Valley Services to receive this award,” CEO Jim Walt said. “We’re certainly humbled.”
The most recent event Valley Services catered was the Winter-Reed Partnership Award ceremony that honored Hinds President Dr. Clyde Muse. Valley Services was the title sponsor, also announcing a new Hinds scholarship to be given to a member of Hinds Connection, the student public relations and recruiting group that helps facilitate many Hinds events catered by Valley.
“We’ve had the distinct pleasure of working with the exemplary students in Hinds Connection at many events,” Walt said. “Valley, in support of Dr. Muse’s educational vision, each year will recognize a student of the Hinds Connection for the annual scholarship.”
Founded in 1960 by the late Bill Hogg, the company is the sixth-largest contract food service company in the U.S. and the single-biggest contractor that specializes in meals for seniors. It has been the contract food products provider for Hinds since 1971. Valley provides food products at nine other community colleges in the state, but its contract with Hinds is the longest-held in the education sector.
“We try to keep food to the students’ liking, and that means fresh,” said George Ardelean, the company’s executive vice president for dining and health services and chair of Hinds’ Golf Fun Fest. “Freshness is a big part of it, and it’s where the momentum has shifted in the industry.”
A commitment to keeping only the freshest romaine lettuce in the salad bar and catfish worthy of a Mississippian’s lunch plate began with the founder’s friendship with Muse.
“Dr. Muse had a business relationship with Bill for many, many years and were friends,” Walt said. “It’s been a very long and tenured relationship with the college.”
Valley’s service to Hinds extends beyond student and employee cafeterias at the Raymond and Utica campuses. The company’s products grace tables at the Eagle’s Nest Grille and at Eagle Ridge Conference Center.
The company also caters for fundraisers and other functions at the college. That includes being the title sponsor of the golf fest and Employee Appreciation Day, both annual events, providing breakfast monthly for President’s Cabinet meetings and donating food for many other Hinds events as well as state-level events Hinds participates in. In the community, Valley sponsors fundraising breakfasts for local Boy Scout troops.
Staying ahead of market trends is simply standard practice for Valley.
“Each year, we evaluate our program to keep up with trends in our industry,” Walt said. “We’ve made changes through the years to keep up with the different taste preferences of students, faculty and guests.”
Valley maintains a Hinds presence with administrative office space and Vince Randazzo as the manager and has a distribution center in Flowood.
Vice President for Advancement Jackie Granberry, who oversees all district-wide special events for the college, can testify to the company’s standard of service.
“I depend on Valley quite a bit, and they have never let me down,” Granberry said. “Whether it is a very dignified dinner for a few at the president’s home, a dinner for 500, a reception for dignitaries or anything in between, they always provide the best service and the best food.”
The company views technological or logistical changes in the industry as chances to keep serving up good service.
“It’s such a well-oiled machine, so I think there’s been a consistency that we’ve been able to maintain from a culinary feature,” Ardelean said. “We’ve had at least two recent executive chefs come from the (Hinds) culinary program. It’s been a good flow, and it’s indicative of the management staff we have.”
Walt reminds that it all started with Hogg, who died in 2008. He started the business by selling foods to grocery stores out of his pickup truck. It’s a simplicity and consistency that still resonates with the current chief.
“The company, along with Bill Hogg if he was still alive, feels it’s a great honor for our organization,” he said. “A lot of hard work and dedication by a lot of different people through the years went into this.”