School districts across the country offering universal free lunch options

Starting May 1, community eligibility will be available to schools in all 50 states.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Hunger crises do their greatest damage to those who are already most vulnerable: The poor, the elderly, the disabled, and, of course, children. As a result of America’s present hunger crisis, one-fifth of all households with children are classified as food insecure by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which which defines food security as “access … to enough food for an active, healthy life.”

In total, 8.3 million children in this country are not getting the food they need. At the same time, food stamp cuts have put extraordinary strain on both public and private anti-hunger programs, to the point where even many food pantries and soup kitchens are unable to meet the basic needs of their clients. The food security safety net is fraying to the breaking point.

But there is one notable exception to the overall trend. Even as Congress signs off on billions of dollars in food stamp cuts, the federal government is dramatically expanding its free school meals program. Thanks to a 2010 law championed by first lady Michelle Obama, a growing number of schools across the country are offering free meals to all of their students, regardless of whether those students’ parents applied for the program.

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Labor secretary nominee Andy Puzder has officially bowed out of consideration for the cabinet position, according to the Associated Press .

Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants—the parent company of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.—was tired of being under fire for hiring an undocumented immigrant as a nanny and being accused 26 years ago of physically abusing his wife, an unnamed source told CBS News . The agency reported that Puzder was unlikely to show for the start of his confirmation hearings tomorrow.

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Industry News & Opinion

Risley Dining Room at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., has just become 100 percent gluten-free, 14850.com reports.

For the past two years, the university has slowly phased out gluten in the dining hall’s menu by eliminating it in its stir fries, biscuits and brownies.

Instead of offering gluten-free versions of typical college fare, including pizza and pasta, the dining service team aimed for more sophisticated restaurant-style items.

Along with being gluten-free, Risley is also peanut free and tree-nut free.

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James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., recently hosted a weeklong program called Weigh the Waste, which aimed to show students how much food gets wasted in dining halls, The Breeze reports.

Throughout the week, students placed food they were about to throw away on a scale located near the trash bins at one of their dining halls. At the end of the week, the school tallied the waste and saw that 817 pounds of food had been wasted.

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Industry News & Opinion

The University of Maryland will begin offering weekly specials at all of its dining halls this semester, The Diamond Back reports.

The weekday specials will allow Dining Services to offer past menu items that students miss as well as new dishes students have been requesting, according to a spokesperson.

Students can find out which specials are being offered each week via dining hall table tents as well as through Dining Services’ social media. During select weeks, the specials may reflect a particular theme, such as Taste of the South.

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