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5 coronavirus things: Aramark cuts Philadelphia headquarters staff

This and a record amount of USDA farm-to-school grants are some of the stories you may have missed recently regarding the COVID-19 crisis.

In this special edition of 5 Things, Food Management highlights five things you may have missed recently about developments regarding coronavirus and its impact on onsite dining.

Here’s your list for today:

1. Aramark cuts Philadelphia headquarters staff

Aramark Corp. has laid off about 3% of its Philadelphia-area workforce of 8,000 in a restructuring of corporate staff in finance, information technology, supply chain and other departments. The company, which moved to a new corporate headquarters in 2018, did not provide a total number of job cuts, but 3% works out to 240. The company did not say how many people work out of the new headquarters, which employed 1,200 when it opened.

Aramark has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, which shut down many of its customers, such as professional sports arenas, colleges and universities and corporate cafeterias. The company’s shares, which trade on the New York Stock Exchange, plummeted from a high this year of nearly $47 in January to a low of less than $13 in March. The shares were trading in the $21 range last Friday.

Read more: Aramark cuts Philadelphia headquarters staff

2. USDA gives out $12.1M in farm-to-school grant awards

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded $12.1 million in Farm to School Grants, the most since the grant program’s inception, to 159 grantees, which is the most projects funded to date, to help bring fresh, local foods into schools and help farmers over the next school year.

This year, the annual Farm to School Grant Program included a new track specifically for state agencies seeking to engrain the use of local foods in child nutrition programs across their state, not just in the school meals programs but also in childcare centers and at summer meals sites. In all, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) awarded grants of between $20,000 and $100,000 to projects in 46 states, the District of Columbia and Guam. Grantees represent the wide diversity of partners involved in farm-to-school efforts, including agricultural producers, tribal nations, nonprofits, state agencies, and schools spanning both rural and urban areas.

To help target funds to high-impact projects, FNS awarded bonus points to applications serving schools with a high population of students eligible for free and reduced-price meals; submitted by or serving tribal nations; and located in or targeting an Opportunity Zone, a census tract designation for low-income communities. In all, the projects will serve more than 7,610 schools and 2.5 million students, more than half of whom are eligible for free or reduced-priced meals.

Read more: USDA Gives Out $12.1 Million in Largest-Ever Farm to School Grant Awards

3. UConn Dairy Bar now offers online ordering, pickup service

The UConn (University of Connecticut) Dairy Bar started serving up ice cream again on June 24 in a process through which customers place orders online in advance through the website, then go to the Dairy Bar and have the items delivered to their vehicles in the parking lot. The building is not be open to the public, nor is there be outdoor seating provided in the area nearby for patrons. The ice cream will be provided pre-packaged in containers for customers to take elsewhere, just like with online grocery or takeout food orders.

Like other university services and facilities, the Dairy Bar closed in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. UConn Dining Services Executive Director C. Dennis Pierce says they have received many inquiries from people about when the Dairy Bar might reopen, and that providing the pickup service is an attempt to balance those requests with the need to ensure proper health and safety measures.

Read more: UConn Dairy Bar to Start Offering Online Ordering for Ice Cream Pickup

4. Massachusetts schools will require meals in the classroom this fall

When students across Massachusetts return to school this fall, class will not resume like pre-COVID times. State education officials released guidance last week offering a glimpse into what educators and families can expect for the 2020-2021 school year.

Among the requirements, schools will be asked to turn to alternative spaces—including cafeterias, libraries and auditoriums—to allow for more social distancing. Students will eat breakfast and lunch in the classroom instead of the cafeteria or common areas.

Read more: Mandated masks, lunch in the classroom: Here is what schools in Massachusetts will look like in the fall due to coronavirus concerns

5. Oregon town experiments with robot delivery of food and goods

Residents of Philomath in Oregon are possibly among the first in the world to receive their food deliveries from a robot. The robot in question is Dax, a three-foot-tall, semi-autonomous service robot that has the ability to keep food hot or cold. Currently, Dax is making free deliveries for businesses and individuals in Philomath within a specific delivery area.

“It just seemed like the world was finally ready to meet its first robot [food delivery] helper,” said Kevin Sullivan, CEO at Nova Dynamics, which developed Dax. “We had sidewalks, and lithium batteries, and AI… why not put it all together so I could get a sandwich without getting in a car?”

With the COVID-19 outbreak, more people are depending on delivery services, so Dax has been even more active in Philomath. 

“Dax has been doing deliveries for the local restaurants and businesses for free,” explained Sullivan. “We’re trying to help people that need or want to stay home because of Covid.”

Read more: Meet Dax, Philomath’s Delivery Robot

Bonus: 10 technology solutions to help food service operators deal with coronavirus

Contact Mike Buzalka at [email protected]

TAGS: Coronavirus
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