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 Aug. 29:
1. Parents claim meal discrimination for low-income students
A group of parents say Denver Public Schools isn’t providing the same meal quality in low-income schools as it does in higher income ones. The parents looked at and photographed meals served in 16 Denver schools—eight in a high-income neighborhood and eight in a low-income neighborhood. The parents had the support of the district for the project, which started after a student took a photo of a school meal she described as frozen strawberries, burned bread and undercooked meat. The parents in the project found that while the menu is the same for all schools in the district, the quality of food and execution was lacking at those low-income schools. The foodservice department is taking the parents seriously, saying it is looking into quality control at all schools. Theresa Hafner, executive director of Enterprise Management, told ABC News that she didn’t see this as an issue of discrimination since cooks alternate the schools they work at and similar quality issues have been noticed in schools that aren’t low income.
2. Activists fight to curb bottled water at college
If you haven’t heard of Take Back the Tap, you just might soon. The campaign, run by the Food & Water Watch, aims to get bottled water off college campuses for sustainability reasons. And they’re making good progress: 73 colleges have banned the sale of bottled water in some form (either entirely or at certain locations or events) and 182 campuses are involved in campaigns to raise awareness of the issue.
3. Nut-free schools don’t curb allergic attacks
As rates of food allergies increase, many schools are challenged with ensuring the safety of their students in dining environments. Some schools opt to go nut free, meaning no nuts can be brought into the school. But does that work? One study of nearly 2,000 schools in Massachusetts found that rates of epinephrine use were higher in nut-free schools, while they were lower in schools with nut-free tables in the cafeteria. There haven’t been any randomized controlled studies, however, to evaluate the rates of reactions in schools with nut-free policies.
Read more: Nut-Free Schools: Points to Ponder
4. Drought’s newest victim? The Northeast
When the word “drought” comes to mind, you probably immediately think of California. But farmers in the Northeast are also facing a lack of rain. According to NPR, the Northeast is facing its worst drought in more than a decade. That’s not good news for farmers—there are 175,000 farms in the region, producing $21 billion a year in food, hay and flowers—but it’s also bad news for those operations that have made local purchasing a priority. It’s already difficult enough to source locally in the Northeast during the cold winter months, but with a drought added, it could get even more tough.
5. Brazil’s free lunch program benefits kids and small farmers
A universal free lunch program is advocated by many in the United States. The same can be said for sourcing locally for school meals. But what if the two things were combined? That’s exactly what’s happening in Brazil, the world’s largest universal free school meal program, according to Reuters. Forty-five million students eat for free on the program, which stipulates that 30 percent of the school meal budget be used to purchase produce from small stakeholder farms. Some farmers say the deals with the schools are helping to keep them in business and on their lands.