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5 Things
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Virginia Tech has seen strong pushback against its plan to remove off-campus meal plans.

5 things: Virginia Tech won’t offer off-campus meal plans

This and an airport considering meal delivery to gate areas are among the things you missed for the week of June 15.

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 15:

1. Virginia Tech won’t offer off-campus meal plans

Virginia Tech says it won’t offer a meal plans for students living off campus, an announcement that prompted a deluge of questions and concerns over social media and an online petition seeking to reverse the decision that garnered nearly 2,000 signatures.

As of Tuesday, 858 off-campus students were on a waiting list for a campus meal plan, according to Tech spokesman Mark Owczarski.

 “We have not removed anyone from this list yet because we continue to determine how operations will function for on-campus dining plans and public health guidelines before we will allow dining plans for off campus students this fall,” Owczarski wrote in an email.

Virginia Tech, FM’s Best Concepts Awards Best of Show winner two years ago, has traditionally been hugely successful in attracting voluntary off-campus meal plan sales.

Brian Grove, senior associate director of dining services, says the decision is based on limiting crowds in dining venues, noting that one dining facility initially will be staffed with 12 servers, down from the normal 22. Lines that would typically see 50 students waiting will be replaced with spots for 16 people. A dining hall that seats 800 will now hold fewer than 300.

“That’s how drastic the measures are,” Grove said. “That’s why we chose not to offer off-campus meal plans.”

The situation may help the local economy in Blacksburg, the city in which the Virginia Tech campus is located, suggests Town Manager Marc Verniel, who adds that the town will soon hold talks with restaurants about how they could help fill that gap.

“We see that actually as a big opportunity for local restaurants to provide meals to off-campus students,” he said. “That will put money back into the local economy, which will be a good thing, too.”

Read more: From housing to dining, Virginia Tech to require students to 'adult in a very different way'

2. Airport considering delivery options for food, other onsite purchases

The Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Texas is considering some changes in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Airport staff is currently in the research phase of an app or website plugin that would let customers order from restaurants or shops within the airport from their seat at the gate. Employees would then deliver the orders to them.

"Several of our concessionaires now currently use some of that technology, but some of them do not. Some use different things. It is an emerging technology inside of airports. And so, essentially, the purpose of this would be to expand and unify a service like that," said Mandy McClendon, the communications and marketing manager for the airport.

The goal is to reduce the line and crowds in front of some of the shops and restaurants inside the terminals and to help them rehire some of the workers they've had to furlough or lay off because of the pandemic.

Read more: Austin airport considering internal delivery service for terminal restaurants, shops

3. Aramark, Jefferson Health launch workplace safety tool app

To assist operators with their safe reopening and continued operation, Aramark and Jefferson Health have launched EverSafe OS, a workplace safety digital product that offers a suite of simple, streamlined tools and resources for businesses and organizations, to empower employees and customers with confidence in their safety. The proprietary web-based service and mobile app, available in both the Android and Apple stores, is designed for small- and medium-sized businesses such as restaurants and retailers, where reopening safely is a critical concern and additional guidance to do so is needed.

“Given the challenges that businesses and organizations around the globe face in light of COVID-19, EverSafe OS can help support their efforts to approach this new normal with proven insights, information and tools for a safe and successful reopening,” said Marc Bruno, Aramark COO, U.S. Food & Facilities. “By packaging Aramark’s world-class safety standards and operational excellence best practices with Jefferson Health’s expertise in infection prevention and improving health, EverSafe OS will enable users to develop a plan, assess and mitigate risks, make sound decisions, and sustain change.”

Read more: Aramark & Jefferson Health Launch EverSafe™OS Mobile App

4. Tech solutions for B&I cafes include proximity sensors, auto food dispensers

This report from India details a number of potential high-tech solutions for in-house dining departments in businesses to maintain safety in the wake of the COVID crisis. They include social-distancing wristbands that vibrate on human proximity, beepers that ring if a customer hangs around in a cafeteria beyond a limited time, automatic food dispensers that fill up lunch plates and foot-pedal-powered vending machines.

“Cafes will be very different from the way they were in the pre-Covid world and will be fully digitally managed,” says cofounder Sandipan Mitra of food tech firm HungerBox. “We have introduced an app that will allow entry into the office cafeteria only with an active QR code. Seats have to be pre-booked and food selection and payment will be through the app. We have wristbands that will track camera feed, Bluetooth or radio frequency to calculate distancing and vibrate in case of proximity,” he adds.

Read more: Technology take over in Covid-safe cafeterias

5. Book/meal mobile unit again hits the road in Johnson City

The Bookworm Mobile book and meal unit operated by Johnson City Schools’ in Tennessee is now in its fifth year delivering summer meals and reading materials to district students. While the program only served 14 children in its first year, this summer, it’s expected to serve over 700.

“It’s just such a blessing to be able to give them something that, you know, just a little gift from the schools and show them that we care, especially right now when they’ve been out of school so long, they need that contact. They need somebody who is showing them that outside of their homes, we still care about you and we’re excited to help you read,” said Bookworm Mobile coordinator Dr. Ali Gardenhour.

Read more: Johnson City Schools’ Bookworm Mobile hits the street for first time this summer

Bonus: UMass’ Virtual Chef Culinary Conference session strategizes wellness for college dining

Contact Mike Buzalka at [email protected]

TAGS: Coronavirus
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