Emerging Trends: October 2013

Published in FSD Update

> Schools Improving Nutritional Policies, Study Finds

School districts are becoming healthier places, according to the newly released 2012 School Health Policies and Practices Study, which was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study is the largest and most comprehensive survey to assess school health policies, according to a CDC press release.

In addition to nutrition, the survey looked at seven other components, including physical education, tobacco, health services, and family and community involvement. Some key findings in the nutritional department are:

•There are fewer school districts that allow soft drink companies to advertise soda on campus. Thirty-five percent of districts allowed this in 2012, down from 47% in 2006.
•More districts are prohibiting the sale of “junk food” in vending machines. Nearly half (43%) of districts do not allow these foods to be sold on campus, an increase from 30% in 2006.
•More districts are making the nutritional content of foods sold to students available. Fifty-three percent of districts offer this information, an increase from 35% in 2006.  

> Cheese Pizza Reigns Supreme Among College Students 

The top 10 ordered entrées from college students on GrubHub last year were:

  1. Cheese pizza
  2. Pad Thai
  3. General Tso’s chicken
  4. Sesame chicken
  5. Chicken tikka masala
  6. Chicken wings
  7. Caesar salad
  8. Spicy tuna rolls
  9. California rolls
  10. Cheeseburgers 

The online ordering company examined food orders from students on more than 350 college campuses in the United States. The data also showed that students in the Chicago area were the most likely to order a wide variety of ethnic cuisines. Columbia College-Chicago and the School of the Art Institute-Chicago had the highest amount of ethnic orders. Those two were followed by New York University, Loyola University, in Chicago, and the University of Illinois-Chicago. 

The five universities where students order the most meat-free meals are: Yale, Cornell, Occidental College, Columbia College-Chicago and the School of the Art Institute-Chicago.  

> Crop Prices Expected to Drop 

Prices for U.S. corn, soybeans and wheat are expected to drop in the third quarter, according to the IHS Supply Chain Pricing & Purchasing group. Prices for these three commodities will drop between 9% and 10% from their second-quarter levels, bringing them to similar prices before the drought impacted crop yields in the second quarter of 2012. Even better news: U.S. corn and soybean pricing is expected to decline between 24% and 27% in the fourth quarter. Wheat, however, is expected to see a 5% increase. “The drought decimated the U.S. Great Plains and the Corn Belt during the summer of 2012,” said Ryland Maltsbarger, principal for IHS’s Supply Chain Pricing & Purchasing service. “The planting season in spring 2013 started out much worse than in 2012 with a majority of the crop going in late. However, while the drought is still lingering in certain areas in the United States, we are in a better position than we were one year ago.” 

> Tracking Food Poisoning Through Twitter

Operators have another reason to monitor Twitter posts from their customers: potential food poisoning alerts. A new system, nEmesis, searches tweets to find a potential link to food poisoning cases. The system was developed at the University of Rochester.

Here’s how it works. nEmesis analyzes millions of tweets searching for those people who have reported symptoms consistent with food poisoning after the tweeter has visited a restaurant. nEmesis detects when a person has visited a restaurant by matching up the location from which the person tweeted and the known locations of restaurants. nEmesis was used to track 3.8 million tweets from New York City during a four-month period. The program found 480 likely reports of food poisoning.  

> Monitoring Restaurant Workers Reduced Employee Theft 

When people know they are being watched, they often change their behavior. That’s the finding behind a new paper that looked at the impact of technology that monitored employees at restaurants. The technology was installed at 392 restaurants in five casual dining chains. The chains’ names were not disclosed.

After installing the monitoring software, a restaurant’s revenue increased by nearly 7%, or nearly $3,000, according to an article in the New York Times. The increase in revenue came because the employees changed their behavior, not because they were fired, according to the paper. Simply knowing they were being monitored was enough for the employees, who were the restaurant’s servers, to stop any theft, such as giving a table free dessert in the hope of getting a larger tip.  

> 37, 000

The number of students in Vermont who will now receive free lunches. The state is the first to eliminate the reduced-price meal category and instead offer lunches for free to those students. Students whose families qualify for reduced-priced meals have received free breakfast since 2008. The lunch expansion came after new legislation was passed earlier this year. Child nutrition programs will be reimbursed from the state’s general fund the 40 cents they normally receive from the federal government for reduced-priced meals.