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Harvard closed campus dining halls and other facilities earlier this month when it transitioned its courses online due to the coronavirus outbreak.

5 things—Update: Harvard updates contract employee pay following backlash

This and New York City considering expanding its free school meal program to adults are among the things you missed for the week of March 23.

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 March 23:

  1. Update: Harvard changes contract employee pay following backlash

After stories emerged that Harvard University was looking at an option of cutting its subcontracted dining hall workers without pay as it shuts down in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the university responded with a statement outlining its policies regarding the matter:

They include guaranteeing the regular pay and benefits through May 28 of core staff—including Harvard employees providing dining and custodial services—who are well and available to work but whose duties cannot be performed remotely or because of the shifts in the campus population. It is also exanding eligibility for this guarantee of pay and benefits to part-time contingent employees who are less than half time.

"For contract employees working in dining, custodial and security roles, Harvard will provide financial relief in the form of pay and benefits if they are well and available for work but displaced from their contract assignments due to the COVID-19 public health emergency and unable to obtain new assignments. Employees of Harvard’s 14 major suppliers of these services are eligible for this support, for work disruptions between March 10 and May 28, 2020. The University is working with these suppliers to ensure its financial support will be used for the direct benefit and financial relief of contract food service workers, custodians and security guards."

Read more: Updated Human Resources policies in response to COVID-19

  1. NYC considers expanding free school meal program to adults

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is considering handing out free meals to adults for the asking after his plan to supply students with breakfast, lunch and dinner while school is out collided with statewide warnings to stay home. With demand among students significantly lower than expected, City Hall is working on a new plan to distribute meals to any adult who shows up to a select list of schools.

Department of Education statistics reportedly show that after an initial bump in the student feeding program, demand has fallen from a peak of nearly 200,000 meals early on to a low of 81,000 on a rainy Monday, though it grew to 115,865 a couple of days later. Still, that’s far below the nearly 600,000 meals distributed daily when schools are open, prompting the consideration of expanding the program. However, foodservice workers and their union are concerned about the increased possibility of coronavirus exposure and other health risks associated with such an expansion.

Read more: Plan in Works to Expand Free NYC School Meals to Adults, Too

  1. Hospital delivers meals to its senior “regulars” during café shutdown

Many hospital cafeterias have “regulars” of seniors who come to eat and socialize, an informal service that has now been suspended at the many healthcare facilities that have restricted visitors, closed their retail dining to outsiders and/or closed their seating areas.

Van Wert Health in Ohio has taken steps to see that its senior regulars still have a meal service after its cafeteria was closed due to the coronavirus. One of them is 86-year-old Johnie Patrick, who has eaten at the Van Wert Health cafeteria every day for 13 years. Knowing that Patrick and a couple of other daily meal eaters come out to the cafeteria, the staff decided to bring them their meals and to check on them to make sure they are okay during this time of crisis.

"I go out to the hospital every day to eat," said Patrick. "They are bringing me food now. I want to thank them for that. Every day at 9 o’clock they are bringing me what I want."

Van Wert Health Community Wellness Coordinator Anne Dunn said that Van Wert Health, unfortunately, can't do this for everyone but that they wanted to help those that they have become accustomed to seeing every day.

Read more: Hospital delivers meals to long-time cafeteria goers

  1. Restaurant offers meal plan for sheltering-in-place individuals, families

Now, here’s an idea that some other shuttered or limited dining operations might consider.

The iconic San Francisco restaurant Samovar has announced a new business line in response to the impact of COVID-19 on residents: a subscription meal plan of homemade "family-style" dishes and provisions for delivery or pickup. With millions of Californians now largely confined to their homes, the subscription-based service fulfills consumers' need for healthy, comforting, and convenient meals to nourish their family during the crisis. Menus vary according to market availability and all meals feature Samovar's favorite farmers and purveyors along with their artisan organic teas as well as add-ons like milk, coffee, farmers’ market produce, eggs, cheese, beer and wine. More household and grocery provisions will reportedly be added in the near future.

Read more: First of its Kind Subscription Meal Plan Nourishes Shelter in Place Residents

  1. Grand Canyon still open but amenities like dining aren’t

Grand Canyon National Park is still open, but the same cannot be said for lodging and food services in the park, which will be shuttered for the next two months by concerns over coronavirus. Park concessions operator Delaware North has announced that services at Yavapai Lodge and at Trailer Village would close while park officials have halted shuttle service and closed the South Rim store and visitor stations, among other changes.

Read more: Grand Canyon open, services and food aren’t

Bonus: How foodservice distribution is coping with coronavirus

Contact Mike Buzalka at [email protected]

For our most up-to-date coverage, visit the coronavirus homepage.

Correction: March 27, 2020
This story has been updated to reflect Harvard's issuance of a statement on its policy regarding compensation for contract workers and other employees affected by the coronavirus threat.
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