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 June 25:
1. VA director says she was punished for whistleblowing
This article from NPR tells the story of what it calls “a culture of fear and retaliation” against whistleblowers at the VA, specifically those in central Alabama. A VA report found that 40 percent of VA employees who spoke out said they were retaliated against. Allegations from the central Alabama VA include physical isolation and verbal abuse; bullying in and outside the workplace; and “counter-investigations that blamed employees for creating a ‘hostile work environment’ or other vague and often unspecific charges,” according to NPR. The story includes a good bit on the foodservice department, formerly led by US Army Col. Cynthia Chavez. Chavez said she found many issues in the department, including one employee who was running a catering business on the side using VA-purchased food. When Chavez punished employees for their behavior, she says she was retaliated against, which eventually led to her being asked to resign.
2. NYC schools to pilot kosher, halal project
For years, many in NYC have urged the nation’s largest school district to offer kosher meals for students. Now, a pilot program that will offer both kosher and halal food options has been given a $1 million backing in the city budget. The pilot program will run next year; no additional details have been given at this point. U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens, N.Y.) said in the Jewish News Syndicate, “I have long called for halal and kosher meals to be made available in New York City schools, and I’ve made similar calls on the federal level as well. … I’m pleased that Jewish and Muslim students will finally have lunch options that adhere to their dietary restrictions.”
3. College starts free meal program for students
Food insecurity among college students is getting a lot of attention these days, particularly after a study found that nearly 36 percent of college students are food insecure. The Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology is taking a new step by partnering with a local sandwich shop to give needy students up to three free meals a week. The meals, with a max price of $7, are funded through private donations. Students are connected with the restaurant through financial and career advisors. So far about 10 students have taken advantage of the program. This is just another example of how college campuses are tackling this issue. The resolution must be multifaceted, but perhaps something like this could be done with the dining halls as well.
Read more: College kids grab lunch, bag hunger
4. Calif. looking to limit drinks in kids meals
We hear a lot about whether schools should serve flavored milk in schools, but some California lawmakers are hoping to limit drink choices at kids meals served at restaurants. Their bill would require those meals to offer only water or unflavored milk. Drinks like chocolate milk, juice or soda could still be available, at no extra cost, but only upon request and they could not be advertised alongside the kids meal.
Read more: Out with the soft drinks, in with the milk: California lawmakers consider limiting drinks for kids meals
5. Denver schools’ unpaid meals skyrockets
There’s been a lot of talk lately about so-called “lunch shaming.” When Denver Schools last year decided it would serve all kids a reimbursable meal, even if they couldn’t pay, its unpaid meal accounts deficit skyrocketed from $13,000 the year before to $356,000 this year, which amounts to nearly 900 unpaid meals each day.