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5 Things
Food delivery robots created by California-based Starship Technologies will soon be ready to make deliveries from Southside restaurants.

5 things: College’s food delivery robots expand into local community

This and a possible contractual snag regarding lunch in the classroom plans are among the things you missed for the week of June 29.

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 June 29:

  1. NAU food delivery robots expand to serve surrounding community

The stout, six-wheeled robots that have roamed the Northern Arizona University campus for the last year are expanding their reach into Flagstaff, starting in the Southside neighborhood. After weeks of mapping efforts, the food delivery robots created by California-based Starship Technologies will soon be ready to make deliveries from Southside restaurants including Morning Glory Cafe, Asia Station, Potion Tea & Bakery, Corn & Flour Taco Shop and Dara Thai.

These eateries are already listed on the Starship app, through which orders are placed, for pickup, with delivery options coming soon.

“Since universities and things like that had to shut down due to COVID 19, we pivoted as a company to help provide contactless delivery for neighborhoods and areas around where we already had service set up,” said Joshua Taylor, Starship’s operations manager for Flagstaff.

Read more: NAU food delivery bots expand to Southside

  1. Lunch in the classroom may raise contractual issues with teachers

Many local school districts in New York have created their own reopening task forces to begin planning for how they will safely bring students back in the fall. One of the many areas that will need to be addressed is lunch time, with serving lunch in the classroom generally seen as a way to avoid cafeteria crowds and cut down hallway traffic.

However, Superintendent of Mohonasen Central School District Shannon Shine says lunch in classrooms could create a contractual issue for some districts in terms of supervising students.

“For example at Mohonasen, at the elementary level, it’s very explicit that teachers do not supervise students for lunch. So if I want you to supervise students for lunch I’m going to have to pay you a fair bit. If you multiply that over every student, every day, it would be like hiring ten percent more teachers. There is no way I can afford to have students eat in the classrooms and it would be a miracle if the teachers union said, ‘we’ll do that for free, no problem’. So that’s Mohonasen specific, but I’ve been in other districts where they don’t supervise without compensation,” said Shine.

Read more: Reimagining NY: Preliminary discussions begin regarding lunchtime and school cafeterias in the fall

  1. St. Joe’s cuts meal plan cost, adds delivery and meal kit options

St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia has announced new dining plan modifications and meal plans for the fall 2020 semester in a June 23 university announcement from Tim McGuriman, associate vice president of administrative services.

The changes include a price reduction for all dining plans as well as an increase in the number of meal exchanges in each plan to enable students to use meal swipes in P.O.D. Markets across campus. Students will have the option to choose from six new meal plans.

For every meal plan, $35 of all dining dollars can be used for Good Uncle, a food delivery app that delivers food to students at locations around campus. Hawk Cash, Dining Dollars and Add-On Dining Dollars will also be available for all students.

In addition to Good Uncle, Home Chef Meal Kits will also be added to the new 25 Block plan. Home Chef delivers pre-packaged ingredients and recipe cards to students.

Both Good Uncle and Home Chef, are partnered with campus dining services provider Aramark.

Read more: Adjustments made to dining plans for the 2020-2021 academic year

  1. Virtual queueing, numbered chairs on tap for company cafeterias?

This report is from India, but the issues and potential solutions it raises for providing onsite dining in office environments is relevant in the U.S. as well, with leading institutional catering companies such as Sodexo, Elior and HungerBox investing heavily in technology in order to be able to adhere to the COVID-19 norms of social distancing and being contactless.

For instance, the cafeteria companies are using technology to introduce a virtual queuing system that enable them to limit the entry of people into the cafeteria. "A cafeteria which could earlier accommodate 100 people would now be allowed to have just 30 at a given time. The chairs in the cafe are numbered and our platform picks on the number and assigns the meal to the chair. You come and pick what you have ordered for and go to the chair assigned to you. We have also given companies the flexibility to order a day in advance, so we know exactly how many employees are going to be using the cafeteria the next day," explains Sanjay Kumar, CEO, Elior India.

The virtual queuing mechanism in the HungerBox App, according to its co-founder and CEO, Sandipan Mitra, puts the customer on a virtual queue as soon as he/she orders the food on the app. The customer gets a timer which will beep when it is time for him/her to enter the cafeteria. The app also vibrates when a person is breaching social distancing norms.

Read more: How office cafeterias are innovating to stay relevant in the COVID era

  1. Brandeis dining contract under question

Brandeis University was supposed to award a new dining contract in April that would begin on July 1, when the current contract with Sodexo expired, but amid the disruption caused by COVID-19, no such announcement was made, and Sodexo apparently is continuing to provide dining services for students living on campus over the summer. It is not clear under what contract Sodexo is operating this summer. No new dining contract with any vendor has been announced, but no announcement has been made to update an Aug. 26, 2019 announcement that the current Sodexo contract would end on June 30, 2020.

Read more: Plans for new dining contract disrupted by COVID-19

Bonus: Princeton University dining serves the community through Summer Food and Nutrition Program

Contact Mike Buzalka at [email protected]

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