Each Friday I compile a list that highlights five things you probably missed in the news that week and why you should care about them.
Here’s your list for the week of Jan. 2:
1. Does composting hurt food waste reduction efforts?
It’s fairly well known that when diners are educated about the harmful impacts of food waste (greenhouse gas emissions, water and soil pollution and shrinking landfill space), they are more apt to make a change in their personal behaviors. So it would be easy to assume that educating diners on composting efforts would also help push helpful changes regarding lowering food waste. That’s not the case, however, according to a new study from Ohio State University. The study found that when diners learned their food waste would be composted, they wasted just as much food as those who have not been educated on the harmful impacts of increasing amounts of food waste.
2. Labor Department looks to ban Restaurant Associates from federal contracts
The Labor Department announced that it is looking to prohibit Restaurant Associates (RA) from accepting federal contracts. The move comes after a June investigation that found that one of RA’s subcontractors underpaid nearly 700 workers by an estimated $1 million in wages. RA runs the foodservice at several Capitol Hill dining locations. The Labor Department in June said that RA and the subcontractor improperly classified some workers, which denied them the minimum hourly rate required by the government as well as overtime pay. RA, for its part, released a statement saying it was “surprised and disappointed” about the Labor Department’s attempt to ban them and said the company has fully cooperated with the investigation.
3. FDA extends comment period on healthy food labeling
The FDA has extended the commenting period on the use of the term “healthy” on food labeling from January 26 to April 26. The agency also plans to hold a public meeting to further facilitate dialogue on the topic. It is seeking answers to questions such as, What types of food, if any, should be allowed to bear the term “healthy?”; Should all food categories be subject to the same criteria; and What nutrient criteria should be considered for the definition of “healthy?” You can learn more, or provide your comments, here (link here: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/12/30/2016-31734/use-of-the-term-healthy-in-the-labeling-of-human-food-products-request-for-information-and-comments).
4. NY District racks up huge unpaid meal debt
The unpaid meal debt for Yonkers Public Schools in New York was $809,000 for the 2015-2016 school year. Most of the debt was owed by 94 students, who each owed between $1,000 and $2,000. The debt, which has been a problem before, is growing—the tab for 2015-2016 is 22 percent higher than for the previous year. The district also had a similar issue about 10 years ago, which caused the USDA to withhold $3 million in federal and state lunch reimbursements. The money was eventually recovered. The district’s foodservice director says the issue stems from parents not filling out paperwork for federal free or reduced priced meals and that parents also know there are no consequences for not paying for their children’s meals. It costs the district 97 cents for each unpaid meal.
5. Automated cafeterias making a dent in lunchtime in Singapore
Technology is making an impact on foodservice in Singapore. The new Chef-in-Box Vendcafe is “an unmanned cafeteria comprising a cluster of vending machines,” according to sbr.org. The “cafeteria” features six different vending machines offering a range of hot meals, snacks and beverages. The machines offer 10 to 12 meals per machine, and all meals are prepared by professional chefs working for Vendcafe. The company says the unmanned technology-based machines offer a solution for Singapore’s lunch crunch.
Read more: Unmanned cafeterias, fresh meals