Emerging Trends: November 2013

This month: 524 schools that have dropped out of the National School Lunch Program and more.

Published in FSD Update

> Opportunist eaters

One in five Americans classifies themselves as opportunist diners, meaning they eat on the run and grab something when they have a chance, according to a new report by IRI, a market research firm. These opportunist eaters tend to be younger than those diners who are planners, who eat a fixed amount of meals each day; 46% of opportunist diners are between 18 and 35 years of age. Most opportunist eaters (45%, the largest group) do not make dining decisions based on health, instead eating whatever they want with little regard for nutritional intake and calorie counts. The takeaway for operators: Make sure you have items available at all points during the day and don’t hide the candy.

> Cashless purchases promote unhealthy eating in schools, study says

A new study published in Obesity found that in K-12 schools that accept only cashless payments, students consume more calories than in schools that have cash and cashless options. The researchers, David Just and Brian Wansink of the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs, looked at the amount of calories consumed by eating “junk food” such as candy, desserts and cheeseburgers. The men found that in schools that accept only cashless payments, students consumed 441 calories on unhealthy food, 63 more calories than students at schools that offer cash and debit card payment options. 

> Minnesota to pay schools for breakfast boost

Schools in Minnesota will be monetarily rewarded for increasing breakfast participation under a new promotion between the state of Minnesota, Hunger Free Minnesota, the Midwest Dairy Council and the Children’s Defense Fund of Minnesota. The Minnesota School Breakfast Challenge will give the 30 schools that have the largest increases in breakfast participation 10 cents for every additional morning meal served above last year’s number.

 > 524

The number of schools that have dropped out of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) since implementation of the new meal pattern regulations last year, according to the USDA. That represents one-half of one percent of the schools that are on the NSLP, about 100,000 schools. Ninety of the 524 schools that dropped the federal meals program say they did so specifically because of the new meal pattern regulations. Eighty percent of schools on the NSLP said they have already met the new meal requirements. 

> 73%

The percentage of consumers who said freshness was very important when looking to eat healthfully, according to research conducted by Technomic for American Express’ Market Briefing. Ninety-six percent of respondents rated freshness as either a somewhat or very important attribute to healthful dining, making freshness the No. 1 signal of healthfulness. The next attribute, with 82% of respondents saying it was somewhat or very important, was minimally processed.

> $25 billion

The yearly cost of children’s food allergies in the United States, according to a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics. The figure includes purchasing allergen-free foods, costs associated with placing children in allergy-sensitive schools and wages lost or given up in order for parents to accommodate their child’s allergy. 

> 5

The number of years Amtrak says it will take for the company to break even on its foodservice program. The transportation giant loses about $80 million each year on its dining program. Amtrak hopes consolidated management and automating ordering systems will help the company reduce theft and losses.

 > 25%

The increase in breakfast participation in schools that have implemented the Community Eligibility Option (CEO), which allows schools that have at least 40% of students eligible for free or reduced priced meals to offer breakfast and lunch free to all students, regardless of payment status. CEO isn’t available to all states yet; 10 states and the District of Columbia have the option of joining the program. All states will be open to CEO beginning in the 2014-2015 school year. Districts also saw a boost in lunch participation after joining CEO, accounting for a 13% increase in students eating lunch provided by schools. 

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