5 Things

5 things: Return-to-office rates rise while K-12 enrollment drops

This and the University of Maine closing a dining hall due to reduced enrollment are some of the stories you may have missed recently.

In this edition of 5 Things, Food Management highlights five things you may have missed recently about developments affecting onsite dining.

Here’s your list for today:


  1. Return to office rates hit pandemic era high in major metros

Workers are returning to U.S. offices at the highest rate since the pandemic forced most workplaces to temporarily close in 2020, as infection rates continue to fall and more companies intensify efforts to bring employees back. Office use on average was 47.5% of early 2020 levels—the highest percentage since late-March 2020—for workers in the office over the five business days from Sept. 8 to Sept. 14 in the 10 major metro areas monitored by Kastle Systems, which tracks security swipes into buildings.

Read more: U.S. Return-to-Office Rates Hit Pandemic High as More Employers Get Tougher


  1. Public school enrollment sees steep drop over past year

According to research recently released by consulting firm Tyton Partners, overall public school enrollment dropped nearly 10% between spring 2021 and spring 2022 based on data gathered from two surveys of more than 6,000 K-12 parents in May 2022. While pre-pandemic trends like demographics (i.e., fewer school-age children) account for some of the decline, the research suggests a significant move to alternative schooling options is also a significant factor, with some 3.7 million students making a change to their education experience to private schools, homeschooling and charter schools, accounting for over half of the estimated 6.9 million decline in public school enrollment between the start of the pandemic and spring 2022.

Read more: How pandemic-related disturbances drove a 9% decline in public school enrollment


  1. UMaine closes dining hall due to low enrollment

The University of Maine (UMaine) has closed one of its three dining halls and a residence hall for the fall semester, reflecting some of the lowest enrollment the Orono campus has seen in years and staffing troubles that have plagued virtually every industry. In addition to lower enrollment, the move to close the Wells Central dining facility reflected a need for dining cooks to replace retiring workers and those who had made post-COVID career moves, says university spokesperson Margaret Nagle. There are 1,854 full-time first-year students enrolled this semester at UMaine, down 16% from last year at the same time.

Read more: UMaine closes dining and residence halls because there’s not enough students


  1. Chartwells K12 rolls out global cuisine program

Chartwells K12 has launched a new program called Global Eats developed by its chefs and dietitians with input from students that invites K-12 students on a food exploration that celebrates various cultural heritages. This year, Global Eats makes "stops" at four different countries: China, with signature menu items created by Celebrity Chef Jet Tila; India, with dishes from Aarti Sequeira, cookbook author and winner of the sixth season of The Next Food Network Star; Italy, with cuisine choices created in collaboration with Michael Toscano, Chef/Owner of Le Farfalle in Charleston, S.C. and Da Toscano in New York City; and Mexico, with the menu developed with help from Chicago-based Chef Jonathan Zaragoza, whose family owns Birrieria Zaragoza.

Read more: Now Boarding: Chartwells K12 Takes Students on a Food Adventure with New 'Global Eats' Program


  1. Court upholds employee’s dismissal over COVID policy violation

A former Sodexo employee lost a suit alleging that the company terminated him in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim, after a federal court in Illinois found that the hospital services provider actually fired him for violating its COVID-19 policy. Sodexo gave Elias Moulopoulos a copy of the policy, which prohibited employees from entering a hospital after testing positive for the coronavirus, and he unquestionably violated it, the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois ruled.

Read more: Sodexo Beats Employee’s Lawsuit Over Covid-19-Related Firing


Bonus: First day hoorays: 9 seriously cool school menu items


Contact Mike Buzalka at [email protected]


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