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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Industry News & Opinion

Hutchinson Middle School in Hutchinson, Minn., invited students to help serve lunch in an effort to encourage their peers to try new, healthy recipes, Hutchinson Leader reports.

The students, who are part of the school’s Students in Action Club, created posters to advertise the new meal and helped serve it to students during lunch.

The school’s kitchen manager, Janet Schmidt, said that around 37 more students than normal got in line to try the meal. The school plans to have students from the club help serve lunch once every month.

Read the full story via Hutchinson...

Industry News & Opinion

In an effort to trim costs, the country’s largest senior living company laid off 100 staff members, including regional dining services directors, reports Senior Housing News .

Not all employees who were laid off will technically leave the company, Senior Housing News notes, as some will be reassigned to alternative positions. Brookdale recently posted third-quarter earnings that fell short of analysts’ expectations and that the company’s CEO called disappointing.

At the end of last year, the Brentwood, Tenn.-based company employed 53,000 workers on a full-time basis, and...

Industry News & Opinion

After receiving mixed feedback from parents, Randolph County School District in Asheboro, N.C., is inviting parents to tour the district’s kitchens and cafeterias to see how the food for school meals is made, Fox 8 reports.

School officials say that the tours, part of the district’s first Food Day for Parents, will give parents an inside look at the upkeep of the facilities, as well as enable them to sample some food and see how the district is upholding USDA guidelines.

Officials also hope that the tours will provide them with more guidance on what parents and students are...

Industry News & Opinion

After fielding complaints from parents and students, Sodexo is launching an initiative to improve dining services at Emerson College in Boston, the Berkeley Beacon reports.

The initiative will kick off this month with an event dubbed Fresh Start, marking the start of several moves aimed at improving service—including the hiring of a new executive chef, the addition of a second sous chef, and retraining current staff on food preparation and presentation.

Members of the Emerson community will also be able to share feedback through the introduction of monthly forums, as well...

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