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5 things: Michigan battles food insecurity with emergency meal program

This and more are the things you missed for the week of March 6.

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 March 6:

1. Michigan battles food insecurity with emergency meal program

As colleges struggle to deal with increasing rates of food insecurity among their students, the University of Michigan is implementing a new program to ensure its off-campus population has access to food on campus. The new program would allow off-campus students to request six meals from dining services during the winter 2017 semester. Students in need request the help from counseling and psychological services, health services or the dean, and those entities then work with dining to get meals credited to the students’ accounts.

Read more: Campus groups work to combat off-campus students’ food insecurity with an emergency meal program


2. College looking to allow students to use food stamps in dining venues

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is looking to become the first college to allow food stamps to be used at all dining venues on campus. The campus’s Associated Students of Madison approved the proposal, and university officials are now working to implement it. The university is now working to determine which food items would be eligible for purchase by food stamps, and said some meals served in dining halls would have to be repackaged to allow more eligible food items in order to be purchased with food stamps.

Read more: UW-Madison Working On Plan To Let Students Use Food Stamps For Campus Dining


3. Proposed budget would cut farm-to-school efforts in Wisconsin

Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget would cut the state’s farm-to-school coordinator and the council that advises the government on getting local foods into schools. The cuts would save $86,200 per year. Wisconsin has been a leader in farm-to-school efforts at the state level, creating the coordinator position in 2009. According to the USDA, 164 districts in the state purchase local foods, but another 400 have not joined the efforts, something experts say benefits both students and the local community.

Read more: Experts, political leaders condemn Walker’s proposal to eliminate ‘farm-to-school’ coordinator 


4. Paper: School meals don’t decrease obesity

A new paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that school meals help improve tests scores but do not decrease obesity. The report also said students in schools with contracted foodservice programs see higher test scores than those with self-operated programs. Before anyone takes this and runs with it, however, I urge a big dose of caution. I have not been able to see the actual report for myself, but it keeps talking about “healthy school lunch vendors,” which from what I can tell means any contract foodservice company. The study looked at California schools during the past five years, when the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act has been in place. The authors did say their findings about school lunch and obesity could have been different if they extended the period beyond five years. 

Read more: Study: Healthy school lunches good for grades, but don't decrease obesity 


5. College dining workers strike for more pay 

Following last year’s successful strike at Harvard, more dining services employees at universities across the country are striking, asking for better pay. Foodservice employees working for a sub-contractor at York University in Toronto recently reached a tentative settlement to raise pay more than 10% for most workers immediately, and within a year no worker would make less than $15 an hour. Those workers also all will have full and free health benefits for themselves and their families. Meanwhile, in California, Cal Dining student employees held a protest earlier this week demanding an increase in wages. They staged a walkout, leaving work during the middle of their shifts. The group is asking for a living wage, which they define as between $17 and $19 an hour. The student employees are part of the Undergraduate Workers Union.

Read more: Cal Dining student employees hold walkout, protest on Mario Savio Steps

Striking cafeteria workers achieve ground-breaking settlement at York University, show $15/hour an achievable goal for all service workers


Bonus: Cornell debuts gluten-free certified dining venue


Contact Becky Schilling at [email protected].

Follow her on Twitter: @bschilling_FM

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