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 1:
- SNA urges emergency feeding waiver extension through 2020-2021 school year
The School Nutrition Association (SNA) is calling for the immediate extension of COVID-19 emergency feeding waivers through the end of the 2020-2021 school year and the provision of school meals for all students at no charge. It says swift action is needed to ensure meal programs are equipped to meet children’s critical nutrition needs this fall.
The request was the basis of a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue outlining urgent concerns for school meal programs, which SNA says face a financial crisis due to COVID-19 closures.
“As the school year ends with widespread financial losses, school nutrition professionals must overhaul their operations while meeting unprecedented demand, as reliance on school meals is anticipated to surge due to unemployment,” the group states in a release. “Schools are considering vastly different learning models for the upcoming school year and urgently need answers now to plan modified school meal service based on what will be permissible under USDA regulations.”
A recent SNA survey found school meal programs are ill-equipped to meet all these costly challenges due to widespread financial losses resulting from COVID-19 school closures. In addition to calling on USDA for regulatory flexibility, SNA has also urged Congress to provide much needed funding to cover costs associated with COVID-19 closures.
- Luby’s puts itself up for sale
The Luby’s cafeteria chain that also operates the contract food service Culinary Contract Services unit that is listed on the FM Top 50 is looking to sell its restaurants and assets, the company has announced. The Houston-based company’s board decided to pursue the sale after a review of operations that included the effect of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a company statement.
Luby’s owns the Fuddruckers burger chain as well as Culinary Contract Services and both are included in the company’s sale plan, though a timeframe for the sale has not been set. A sale of the entire company is also being considered.
By March 31, Luby’s had suspended operations at all 50 locations amid the coronavirus pandemic and enacted widespread furloughs and pay cuts. The company last month began reopening some restaurants.
- UMD reopening plans include move to “de-densify” the campus
Shortly after the University System of Maryland announced that its institutions would combine remote learning with at least some in-person instruction for the fall semester, the University of Maryland released a preliminary overview of what things will look like as the campus reopens.
“Everyone should understand that this is a fluid environment,” University President Wallace Loh wrote in an email announcement. “The re-opening of the campus this fall is subject to changing conditions and must be in compliance with federal, state, county, and USM guidance.”
For one, although instruction this fall will include a mixture of in-person, online and blended learning, students should expect many of their classes for the semester to be virtual, Loh wrote. This will be necessary to reduce classroom capacity and ensure that proper distancing is enforced between students, faculty and staff, he added.
Additionally, Loh wrote, the university will move to “de-densify” the campus, reducing the number of individuals residing in dorms and visiting dining halls. The university is also working to provide students with the option of taking classes exclusively online, Loh wrote.
- Hospital ER visits down 40% in 2020 so far, CDC reports
Visits to hospital U.S. emergency rooms have dropped by more than 40% so far in 2020, compared to the same period last year, according to figures released recently by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The statistics indicate that a significant number of Americans may have delayed or declined emergency care because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency said. Changes in how hospitals, and specifically ERs, are used could be a lasting legacy of the new coronavirus, according to some public health experts, posing a potential impact down the line on hospital retail dining programs that depend on visitor sales for part of their revenues.
Many patients who once addressed health concerns by heading to the ER could be managed remotely, using telemedicine, noted Dr. Paul Biddinger, during a conference call with reporters on May 26. Biddinger, vice chair for emergency preparedness in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, was not part of the CDC analysis.
"People have been working for years, probably really fair to say decades, on telemedicine, when it's appropriate for patients not to have to come to the hospital, but they can see their doctor remotely," Biddinger said. "And the pandemic forced a lot of that on us," he said.
Additional research is needed to determine whether the decline in ER visits could be also attributed to "actual reductions in injuries or illness [due] to changing activity patterns during the pandemic" lockdown, the CDC researchers wrote. "The striking decline in [ER] visits nationwide, with the highest declines in regions where the pandemic was most severe, suggests that the pandemic has altered the use of the [ER] by the public," researchers said.
- Major consumer show set to go forward in January in Las Vegas
The group behind the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) plans to hold the enormous tech convention in person in Las Vegas next January, despite concerns that the coronavirus pandemic may still be a threat. The announcement is one positive sign for a convention/conference industry and its caterers that has been almost totally shut down since March by the virus, as other companies have begun to cancel large conferences happening around the end of 2020 out of concern that the pandemic will still pose a threat. For instance, Blizzard canceled November’s BlizzCon, and Microsoft announced that it’ll only hold digital events until July 2021.
CES is one of the largest conventions held each year in Las Vegas, with around 175,000 attendees last year. The Las Vegas Convention Center, the primary venue where the event is held, is scheduled to complete a $980 million expansion just in time for next year’s show.
The Consumer Technology Association (CTA), the group behind CES, is promising new health policies for the show. It says it intends to “regularly clean and sanitize spaces” and offer “sanitization stations,” and it also plans to widen aisles and seats to increase distancing, limit “touch points” by using tech like mobile payments and provide on-site health services. The CTA says it’ll look into doing temperature scans and that it plans to issue “best practices,” like wearing a mask—though it doesn’t say if they’ll be required.
Contact Mike Buzalka at [email protected]