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Hillsborough County in Florida, like other districts around the nation, has made packaged food available during the COVID-19 crisis to families who are struggling through unemployment or anyone who wants a school meal.

5 things: Are some profiteering off school meal distribution?

This and the impact of the coronavirus crisis on composting measures at the University of Montana are among the things you missed for the week of April 13.

Each Friday Food Management compiles a list that highlights five things you probably missed in the onsite foodservice news that week and why you should care about them.

Here’s your list for the week of April 13:

1. Are some profiteering off school meal distribution?

People in Hillsborough County in Florida took so much food from their neighborhood schools one day last week that some ran out before all the children could get their meals, and some recipients appear to be selling the food over social media, district officials said.

“It’s a shame that we found out that some of our constituents were coming through the lines, visiting multiple schools and taking away food for children in need," School Superintendent Addison Davis said. “That just can’t happen. When we talk about being able to serve every one of the students within our organization, we’re here to stand with them."

Hillsborough, like other districts around the nation, has made packaged food available during the COVID-19 crisis to families who are struggling through unemployment or anyone who wants a school meal. From the start, the food was made available to all children, whether they signed up for free lunch at school or not and with federal approval, the district dropped an earlier requirement for children to accompany their parents.

Read more: School food is for the kids, Hillsborough superintendent says

2. Coronavirus crisis complicates composting measures

The transition to grab-and go dining on campus after spring break is halting University of Montana (UM) Dining’s food-waste composting even with its compostable to-go food containers.

“UM is definitely on the path toward getting compost to all of our food outlets,” said Eva Rocke, sustainability coordinator at UM. “But for the time being, UM serving food and drinks in compostable containers and not composting all of that stuff isn’t particularly helpful.”

Students who are still on campus and using their meal plans at the Food Zoo are offered biodegradable and compostable containers and utensils, Rocke said. After they leave with their food, they normally end up throwing their containers into the trash.

UM Dining has been composting at the Food Zoo for over a year, the Kaimin reported in February. Now that students are rarely disposing of their food waste in the Food Zoo, the on-campus dining hall only composts leftovers and packaging the food arrives in.

“Campus Dining continues to compost some appropriate pre-consumer waste,” said Byron Drake, interim director of UM dining. “We have no way of currently collecting post-consumer waste.”

Read more: To-go boxes complicate UM’s composting model

3. Proposal: Replace grab-and-go school meals with grocery vouchers

This opinion piece argues that the current grab-and-go school meal distribution system is underserving low-income households and should be replaced by electronic grocery vouchers. “For a variety of reasons, from running out of food to stopping distribution during spring break, fewer children are receiving replacement meals than consume meals on a regular school day,” it argues, noting that in Fairfax County in Virginia, approximately 52,600 students receive free or reduced-price meals when school is in session but the District of Columbia is distributing fewer than 20,000 meals daily during the closures. Also, a study of low-wage workers in mid-March estimated that only 11% of families who were eligible picked up meals.

It notes that more than three weeks ago, Congress authorized providing electronic grocery vouchers for the value of the lost school meals directly to families with children impacted by school closures. Recently, Michigan and Rhode Island became the first two states to receive permission to distribute these vouchers while seven other states have submitted applications to the USDA and have not yet been approved.

“In the interest of public safety and the food security of children,” it concludes, “states should be standing up electronic grocery vouchers and shutting down emergency school meal programs. Immediately.”

Read more: States should replace grab-and-go school meals with cash to families

4. SNA, United Fresh team to supply single-serve produce to schools

The School Nutrition Association (SNA) and United Fresh Produce Association have partnered to connect produce distributors to school foodservice authorities requesting single-serve, individually wrapped produce as part of their COVID-19 meal distributions.  Additionally, the organizations are looking to coordinate a webinar to highlight schools that are making fresh produce available with their meal distributions, and ways the produce distribution community can support schools with current needs.

Read more: School Nutrition Association and United Fresh Produce Association Partner to Assist Schools with Produce Needs

5. Campus dining may be feeding COVID patients at UNK

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in central Nebraska, the University of Nebraska-Kearney (UNK) campus is preparing two residence halls to potentially house up to 380 coronavirus patients. Under the plan, campus dining halls would be providing three meals a day to patients while custodians assist with the sanitation needed at the facility. Currently the campus is closed to non-essential staff and only about 150 students remain in a different resident hall.

Read more: UNK prepares residence halls to be quarantine units

Bonus: Stories from the front lines: University of Connecticut dining services on communication with students during the coronavirus pandemic

Contact Mike Buzalka at [email protected]

TAGS: Coronavirus
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