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The percentage of public schools participating in school meals programs fell from 94% in March 2022 to 88% in October while the share of public schools reporting more than half of their students getting school meals dropped even further, from 84% to 69% over the same period,

5 things: School meal participation dropping, survey finds

This and a meal theft problem caused by pre-orders being set out in the open for anyone to take 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. School meal participation dropping, survey finds

The percentage of public schools participating in school meals programs fell from 94% in March 2022 to 88% in October while the share of public schools reporting more than half of their students getting school meals dropped even further, from 84% to 69% over the same period, according to the latest School Pulse Panel survey results from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. The most common challenges schools cited in raising participation included convincing parents to submit applications for free and reduced-price meals (34%), food service staffing shortages (32%) and increased program costs (29%).

Read more: Participation in USDA school meal programs drops, federal survey shows

  1. Swiped meals challenge CWRU pre-order system

Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in Cleveland has a problem with students stealing pre-ordered meals at the school's Jolly Scholar and The Den retail locations as the orders are simply placed out in the open for pickup when they are ready, and "many members of the CWRU community have noticed that stealing meals has become common." “It’s really frustrating seeing customers wait an unacceptable amount of time for their food because with all of the orders," one server says, "it takes a while to notice it’s stolen.”

Read more: Stolen orders: An exploration of the issue of meal swipe stealing at CWRU

  1. Downtown Dallas food hall suffers from slow return to office, cafeteria competition

Tension has been building for months in downtown Dallas between the restaurant owners at the Discovery District food hall and landlord AT&T, with issues ranging from parking, construction, lack of marketing and security to a recent major rent increase that threatens their financial viability, the restaurant owners claim. They are also battling a slow return to the office by AT&T’s 6,500 on-campus employees—customers that the eateries were counting on for lunch or dinner sales—and competition from a cafeteria that sells less expensive food, which Exchange tenants claim has driven customers away from the two-year-old food hall. “If I knew there was a cafeteria, we probably wouldn’t have done this,” said Joshua Harmon, owner of one of the newest Exchange Hall food stands, a fried chicken shop named Birdie.

Read more: Can Dallas chefs survive at AT&T food hall? Tenants say they need help, more customers

  1. TikToker slams children’s hospital food, gets major blowback

Paul Saladino, a health influencer on TikTok known as Carnivoremd2, is receiving harsh backlash from doctors, parents and child cancer survivors after he critiqued the cafeteria menu at the Dell Children’s Medical Center at Ascension Seton in Austin that included items like chicken tenders, french fries, Cheetos and an orange vanilla Coke. The respondents noted that children undergoing major clinical procedures often lose their appetites and so anything that can get them to eat is preferable. “Oncology nurse here,” one person commented. “I tell my patients we don’t diet when on chemo. Eat whatever you want whenever you want it because there will be times you won’t.”

Read more: TikToker is slammed for criticizing kids’ hospital food. ‘We don’t diet when on chemo’

  1. Students protesting low staff pay and high meal prices block UCLA dining venue entry

A recent protest at UCLA by students advocating for free tuition and dining blocked students from swiping their cards to enter the De Neve Residential Restaurant at the start of its lunch period before staff arrived to block off the entrance and direct dining hall staff to cease operations..  A student leader who requested to remain anonymous said they aimed to give students free entry to eat at De Neve and that the group hopes to abolish UC administrative practices that create poverty and hunger. “They’re (the UC) paying workers horribly. They’re making us overpay for food. (We’re) overpaying for housing. And so what we were doing for today, we’re planning on taking it back to the UC and saying, ‘Students are hungry. We have basic needs, and (we) should be able to eat for free.’” UCLA did not immediately respond for comment, and officials on-site declined to comment.

Read more: UCLA staff block De Neve dining hall entry amid protest for free tuition, dining

Bonus: 14 future-forecasting food and menu trend predictions for 2023

Contact Mike Buzalka at [email protected]

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