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5 Things: Emoticons on Food Labels and a College’s Straw Controversy

5 Things: Emoticons on Food Labels and a College’s Straw Controversy

These and more are the things you missed for the week of April 13.

Each Friday I compile a list that highlights five things you probably missed in the news that week and why you should care about them.

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

1.    Straw Poll
Little changes can sometimes set off a fire. Christopher Newport University, in Virginia, decided to change the straws in its dining venues to a paper straw that was apparently easier for dining services staff to dispose of but also didn’t hold up well in liquid, according to an article in The Captains Log. Students didn’t like the change and voiced their opinions on social media—where else—but also at a leadership event with the university’s president. The president said, “I can fix that problem,” to the students in attendance. It seems he was successful: Two days later the plastic straws reappeared.  

Read more:  The last (paper) straw

2.    Food labels and emoticons?
I’m not big on creating “words” using emoticons. Some people, however, are very skilled at creating entire conversations using nothing but these “characters.” And, according to a new study, using emoticons might help consumers make healthier dining decisions. The study found that if you put a frowning face on an unhealthy snack, people were less likely to pick that item than with a nutrition label only. And when it comes to the stop light approach (green is good, red is bad), that association needs to be learned over time, whereas the frowning face is something even children understand.

Read more: Food labels: Using emoticons better than using colour?

3.    Oregon looks to eliminate reduced-price lunch category
If lawmakers and the governor have their way, children who qualify for reduced-priced lunch would receive it free of charge next school year. If all goes as planned, Oregon would be the fourth state to eliminate the reduced-price category for lunch. The move is expected to cost the state $2.4 million but would boost participation almost 10 percent.  

Read more: Reduced-price school lunches could be free to students starting in 2015-16

4.    Strength in numbers
The lines are blurring, we often hear about consumers spending their dining dollars at a variety of venues, from restaurants to c-stores and ready-to-eat at grocery stores. Several establishments in Portland are using the basis of that notion in an attempt to change the products it can buy. OHSU hospital, Whole Foods Markets, Portland Public Schools and the Beaverton School District are working together to produce antibiotic-free chicken that is raised locally—and doesn’t cost a small fortune. The four entities say they can’t find a processor/producer large enough to supply them as a single organization, but they hope that by combining the demand from all four that they can entice someone to expand to meet their needs.

Read more: Search for antibiotic-free chicken a struggle for schools

5.    Student designs website to answer the ‘where should we eat’ question
Want to know what dining venues are open right now? A student at James Madison University (JMU) designed a website to tell students just that. After finding it difficult to wade through the university’s dining services page looking at individual location’s hours, Joseph Cross created, which pulls up a list of all locations open at that time.

Dining services says it is open to working with students, including Cross, on projects such as his. College campuses are increasingly becoming the developing ground for apps and websites, many of which have direct applications with dining programs. Oftentimes, however, the student works on the project independently of dining services. It will be interesting to see how these partnerships progress over time.

Read more: JMmmU site provides students easy way to check if dining halls are open

Bonus: “Top Chef’s” Padma Lakshmi Looks to Highlight Fine Mess

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