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5 Things
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Since the start of the new academic year, many of Michigan State University’s dining halls have been offering exclusively disposable plates, bowls, cutlery and cups due to ongoing labor shortages

5 things: Staff shortages force dining policy changes at Michigan State and UCLA

This and USDA publishing a final rule updating the Summer Food Service Program 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. Labor shortage forces Michigan State Dining to use disposables

Since the start of the new academic year, many of Michigan State University’s dining halls have been offering exclusively disposable plates, bowls, cutlery and cups due to ongoing labor shortages. “We do still fully anticipate transitioning all of our dining halls [to reusable plates and silverware] by the first week of October," culinary services spokesperson Cherryl Berry said in an email. "However, that will be dependent on staffing.” Berry said that many of the dish-washing positions were filled by students, who have not come back to dining hall work after the pandemic. Typically, culinary services employs approximately 1,500 student workers but currently it only has about 500.

Read more: Staffing shortages in MSU dining halls results in use of disposables, student frustration

  1. UCLA meal plan halted for off-campus students due to lack of staff

Because of staffing shortages, UCLA's Bruin Meal Plan will not be available to off-campus students for fall, according to UCLA Housing. The Bruin Meal Plan enables off-campus students, including those in university apartments, to use on-campus dining halls, according to the UCLA Housing website. The university is working to fix staffing shortages and offer the Bruin Meal Plan for future quarters in response to student demands, UCLA Housing said in an emailed statement. UCLA recruited and hired new workers over the summer and will continue to evaluate its ability to offer the meal plan, they added.

Read more: UCLA students call for return of off-campus meal plans in fall

  1. USDA publishes final rule on the Summer Food Service Program

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service has published a final rule updating the regulations for the Summer Food Service Program. Through this rule, USDA is providing nationwide access to four operational flexibilities that it says were often requested by states and sponsors prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. These flexibilities are related to oversight visits to summer sites, the times meals can be served, meal service options for school-based summer sites, and how eligibility is determined for sites that require enrollment. The rule also includes updates that will offer better access to meal service and streamline the application process for organizations that are experienced in serving children through other USDA Child Nutrition Programs.

Read more: Final Rule: Streamlining Program Requirements and Improving Integrity in the SFSP

  1. Office catering booms in Boston and New York after Labor Day

The Wednesday-is-free-lunch day trend in offices went supersize after Labor Day, especially in New York City, where catering orders were up 70% from the week before, according to data from food delivery firm Grubhub. Boston and New York City both saw spikes in catering orders on a year-over-year basis, with Boston up 200% and New York up 400%. The same cities also saw a nearly 50% average increase in group orders compared to last year. The numbers seem to reflect a growing realization among employers that a dining amenity may be one of the most effective ways to get workers back to offices.

Read more: Let them eat (corporate office) cake: CEOs splurge on catering after Labor Day to get remote workers back

  1. Iowa State adds take-out meal option to sit-down dining center

Iowa State University (ISU) Dining has added the Conversations dining center, which previously had been one of four campus sit-down dining centers, to its Get & Go take-out meal option dining system for the fall semester. ISU Dining had offered Get & Go meals with limited options out of one location in the 2021-22 school year, but the Conversations Get & Go now offers 11 different food combinations every day and also has several daily specials. “I toured other campuses around the country with portable meal options similar to Get & Go and brought the idea back to ISU,” explains Karen Rodekamp, associate director of engagement. “A portable meal option is something that students desired.”

Read more: Conversations dining hall transformed into Get & Go

Bonus: 50 Stories in 50 Years

Contact Mike Buzalka at [email protected]

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