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:
- USA Today: Child nutrition program lost $1B in last 10 weeks
In the past 10 weeks alone, school districts and nonprofit organizations tasked with feeding children during the pandemic have lost at least $1 billion, claims this lengthy USA Today article. The losses continue to climb with every lunch and breakfast workers serve and could force programs across the county to go into debt or dip into money dedicated to teachers and classrooms to stay afloat.
Although nearly half of America’s schoolchildren were on free or reduced lunch before the pandemic, school shutdowns eliminated the revenue that came from other children whose families paid for the meals.
At the same time, costs have soared. Protective equipment for employees, extra cleaning measures, steps to ensure social distancing in food prep, hazard pay in some cases—they all cost more. It’s also more expensive to package meals that can be taken home or to buy individually wrapped foods that are more portable and easier to serve from a social distance than the soups and family-style meals cafeteria workers used to ladle out one at a time to long lines of children.
All told, spending for many feeding programs has outstripped federal reimbursements for the emergency meals. The House’s most recent relief bill allocated $3 billion for child nutrition programs from now through September 2021, but the bill will face heavy challenges in the Senate, and school food coordinators say they’re unclear on how much of that money will go to individual districts even if it passes.
- AHF cancels in-person August national conference
The Association for Healthcare Foodservice (AHF) has announced that it is canceling its in-person national conference scheduled for August 4-7, 2020 in Orlando and is moving toward a virtual conference. “We prioritize our members' health and safety and understand that traveling is not an option for operators and members rightly focused on caring for patients and colleagues,” a letter to members stated.
The goal of the virtual conference will be “to offer educational sessions that share lessons learned from COVID-19 as well as industry hot topics you would normally experience at our annual conferences. Our virtual conference will give members an opportunity to earn CEUs from ANFP, AND, and ACF and participate in professional development. We will also be offering opportunities to network, take a break with your AHF family, and recharge.”
Read more: AHF 2020 Virtual Conference
- Study finds school closures mean more obese kids
As if the childhood obesity epidemic isn't bad enough, new research warns that over one million more American boys and girls stand to become obese if coronavirus-related school closures continue through the end of the year. The culprit: a steep rise in sedentary behavior following the spring shutdown of school and after-school sports and activities across all 50 states.
"If school closures continue to the end of 2020—due to unsubdued community transmission of COVID-19—the childhood obesity rate in the U.S. might further increase by 2.4%," said study author Ruopeng An, assistant professor with the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis. That translates into 1.27 million new childhood obesity cases by March 2021.
- Georgia University System unveils reopening guidance plan
The University System of Georgia (USG) sent out a memo to its 26 member institutions last week outlining possible plans for resuming instruction in the fall. The 31-page document lays out three contingency plans for the fall 2020 semester—returning to campus with limited social distancing, fall classes begin fully online, and the possibility of moving classes and operations online for “a period of time” during the semester.
“The plan is for all University System of Georgia (USG) institutions to begin the fall semester face-to-face,” the beginning of the memo reads. “It is important to bring our students back to our campuses so that they may engage in the full higher education experience, which we have all invested much time in developing. The health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff are our top priority.”
The guidance for dining halls states that they must have enough space to allow for social distancing and even discourage students from gathering in large groups. Universities will submit their own dining facilities plans for fall 2020 to USG.
Read more: USG lays out possible plans for fall return
- NFL’s Dolphins launch year-long community meal program
The Miami Dolphins Food Relief Program started June 1 and will provide at least 1,000 meals each weekday for the next year. The meals, the team says, will be prepared by Centerplate, the team’s food, beverage, and retail partner. Families in need can pick up free meals at the Hard Rock Center in Miami Gardens.
“We don’t think this is a problem that’s going away, we didn’t want this to be a one time thing,” Miami Dolphins CEO Tom Garfinkel said. “We wanted it to be sustainable, something that could be around a long time for a lot of people.”
Contact Mike Buzalka at [email protected]