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 April 10:
1. Lunch lady fired for giving away free food
Debbie Solsman, a cafeteria worker in the Wilmington City School District in Ohio since 2003, was fired in February for giving away free food and providing food without payment to her grandchildren, according to a local report. Solsman said students would come up to her after eating school lunch saying they were still hungry, so she would give them extra food without charging them. Solsman said if she didn’t have money to cover the cost of the extra food, she would write an IOU and pay it back out of her next paycheck. Solsman said if she were to get another job in a district cafeteria she would continue to provide them free food if they were hungry.
2. Advocacy group sues California districts over sausage served in schools
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has filed two lawsuits against the Poway and Los Angeles school districts, saying that by serving cured and otherwise modified sources of animal protein (think hot dogs, bacon, sausage and bologna), the schools are failing to meet the state’s education code requirement that all school foods served to students be of the “highest quality” and “greatest nutritional value possible.” The committee cited studies from the World Health Organization and National Cancer Association that found that eating processed meat increases the risk of colon and other cancers. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine isn’t one to shy away from such attention-grabbing measures; it has recently purchased billboards attacking the same products.
3. Manager apologies for English-only rule
A manager with Sodexo at the University of Missouri-Kansas City has issued an apology for a rule that prevented employees at the Einstein Brothers location on campus from speaking any language other than English. The apology came after a local reporter heard a shift manager tell two Einstein employees to discontinue speaking in their native language. “I was wrong when I put that into effect,” JP Singh, General Manager of Dining Services UMKC, told the University News. “I was thinking about my employees’ safety and my customers’ safety and a better communication for that work place, and I was wrong.”
4. New Mexico passes "school lunch shaming" law
In what is increasingly becoming a larger issue, unpaid meal accounts and the policies districts put into place to take care of such debt is gaining attention—and not for the right reasons. New Mexico recently became the first state to enact a “school lunch shaming” law. The Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights “directs schools to work with parents to pay their debts or sign up for federal meal assistance and puts an end to practices meant to embarrass children,” according to an article in The New York Times. The trouble with this bill is its implication that schools are somehow “shaming” students who do not have money in their meal accounts. Many child nutrition departments struggle with unpaid meal accounts—sometimes racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. What many not in the industry do not understand is that child nutrition programs are federally funded through the USDA, which requires that meal debts be paid up at the end of each school year. If child nutrition can’t get parents to pay up—many employ debt collectors to help out—the district is forced to fork over the money to cover the costs.
The other issue with these so-called shaming bills is that no child nutrition employee wants to see a child go hungry (see item No. 1 where a cafeteria worker was fired for feeding a hungry student). Districts enact policies to try to reduce the financial burden child nutrition departments have feeding students with no money in their accounts. In fact, the USDA recently mandated that all districts must have a policy addressing the issue, though it failed to set standards for how schools should treat such students. Many give out alternatives meals, which some of these “shaming” bills would seem to outlaw.
This is a complicated issue, and one that is not going to be easy to fix. But turning the problem around to suggest that child nutrition departments are willingly shaming hungry students is not the answer.
Read more: New Mexico Outlaws School ‘Lunch Shaming’
5. Foodservice workers in senior living are least-engaged employees
A new report from Holleran, a Pennsylvania-based employee engagement research and consulting firm, found that foodservice employees were the least engaged employees at senior living facilities. Only 40 percent of food and beverage employees said they were engaged at work. Unfortunately, it seems there’s a larger issue at play, as the highest ranking engaged employee group in senior living was administrative staff, of whom only 55 percent were engaged. Nursing and health services employees came in at only 41 percent.