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 Oct. 10:
1. DC schools should be self-op, auditors find
The struggle for the foodservice program in DC Public Schools is long and well-documented. Following a $19 million whistleblower lawsuit (link here: /legislation/5-things-management-company-pays-19m-settle-dc-school-lawsuit) and management company Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality trying to pull out (link here: /management/5-things-can-meat-really-be-sustainable-and-dc-schools-tells-management-company-it-must-s), the district approved a one-year, $35 million contract with SodexoMagic. A newly released audit, however, found that the district would save money if it were to self-operate its foodservice program, which provides meals for the district’s nearly 50,000 students. The audit found that DC was paying too much for its meal program compared to similar districts, and that DC could save millions by bringing the program in house. The audit, which was conducted by the D.C. auditor’s office, said a self-operated program would allow for better control and accountability to the mayor and city council. The district opposes the recommendation, saying it would present too many challenges (hiring new staff, for example) and that the district should focus on academics in a “hugely broken school system,” according to Carla D. Watson, interim chief operating officer for the district. The audit found that the district is paying contractors more money than it receives in federal dollars—DC pays the contractors between $4.16 and $4.24 per meal and receives $3.15 per meal in federal reimbursements. The district had to cover the nearly $9 million to cover expenses, which isn’t abnormal. However, the Washington Post found that DC was paying more per meal to cover costs than similar district. DC paid $3.90 per meal in fiscal 2015 compared to $2.95 per meal in Baltimore and $3.10 per meal in New Haven, Conn.
2. Strike continues at Harvard; dining asks for volunteers to help
The dining strike at Harvard continues, with no end in sight, according to the Harvard Crimson. The university and the dining workers’ union, Unite Here Local 26, are in disagreement over healthcare packages and wage increases. During the strike, dining services has been forced to make adjustments, including closing some locations, and limiting hours and menus. Now, it appears that the university is asking for other Harvard staff to “volunteer” in dining services by taking a shift in a dining hall. According to an article on metro.us, one faculty member wrote this to her department: “The dining halls are being staffed by [Harvard University Dining Service] managers, supplemented by Harvard colleagues from around the University who are pitching in to help with a shift or two. If you, or exempt staff in your department, are able to suspend some of your regular duties and instead lend a hand to HUDS, I know they would be most grateful.” Harvard University Dining Services said it would not provide comments at this time.
3. Cornell ditches paper plates following attempt to help with drought
Dining services at Cornell had been using disposable plates and utensils for the past couple of months in an effort to save money due to the area’s drought. However, the campus’s Drought Incident Management Team decided that the water saved not washing dishes in the dining hall was not enough to compensate for increased water usage in dining halls. So dining services will once again use its regular serviceware and will wash that in dishwashers. Dining will, however, continue efforts to reduce water usage, including manually scraping food waste from plates instead of having a constant steam of water available to do so.
4. $7.5 million grant to bring breakfast in the classroom funding to 10 states
Studies have shown the importance of eating breakfast, and breakfast in the classroom (BIC) programs help increase participation rates. Now 10 additional states will receive $7.5 million from the Walmart Foundation to help Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom start BIC programs. The states are Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah. The grants work on a three-year cycle. The first year is to assess the need and apply for the grant. In the second, districts receive funding and implement BIC programs. The third, districts track results to determine how well the BIC programs are working. There are currently 18 states that offer the BIC programs through grants by the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom.
5. Child injured on damaged cafeteria table
I include this item as a warning for all operators. Finding money to replace or fix broken equipment or tables is difficult, particularly in schools. But one district found out the hard way that the price is sometimes worth it. A fifth-grade student in a Birmingham, Ala., school was severely injured when she sat on a cafeteria table that was missing a seat. The student was impaled by a metal pole that the missing seat would have been attached to. The student was taken to the hospital. I’m sure no one imagined that this could happen and that students would notice the missing seat before sitting down. But that did not happen in this case. Again, I’m not assigning any blame, but merely pointing this out to perhaps prevent another incident from occurring.