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HomeEconomyInflation hits college cafeterias, student menu choices dwindle

Inflation hits college cafeterias, student menu choices dwindle

(Bloomberg) — College students returning to campus this fall will find their dining halls experimenting with everything from reduced salad dressing to “plant-powered” Mondays as schools find ways to adapt to soaring inflation.

College dining halls are facing many of the same challenges as the broader food service industry, with supply chain constraints and labor shortages adding cost and operational barriers. However, there is an additional twist to their woes: Higher education institutions tend to set tuition, room and board fees months in advance, meaning those rates are often in place before the ingredients become very expensive.

According to data from the Department of Labor, food prices in the United States rose year-on-year in July . 9%, since 82 the biggest increase since). Prices of grains and frozen fruits and vegetables saw their biggest annual rises on record.

This has prompted schools to look for creative ways to relieve stress and accelerate existing initiatives to reduce food waste, serve smaller amounts of food and increase plant-centric options – originally aimed at satisfying Environmental goals and pleasing health-conscious students.

UC Berkeley will offer fewer hamburgers and rely more on the goulash component, but not the core. Yale students had 50 fewer options for a hot breakfast. Their salad bar will contain about half as much food, and the school has cut back on less popular products like shredded carrots, radishes and beets, and cut back on the variety of beans. They also have a choice of pre-designed salads.

Sodexo (EPA: EXHO) North America, designed and managed food service for approximately 500) U.S. campuses have revamped their menus to include a focus on plant-based dishes one day a week, which it says typically cost 20% less than animal-based dishes — protein-based.

“This is the worst supply chain situation I’ve ever seen,” said Dave Kourie, Chief Procurement Officer, Sodexo North America.

Exploding costs are a hurdle for school feeding programs that are still recovering from problems in the early stages of the pandemic, when social distancing guidelines kept diners away and catered for large groups There are few opportunities for activity.

UC Berkeley is betting on an approach that includes a narrower but tastier menu, said Christopher Henning, executive director of dining at UC Berkeley.

Yale University is making similar moves. It reduces the number of olive oil-based salad dressings from five to three.

“We’re not taking away options. It’s a controlled breed,” said Rafi Taherian, vice president of hotel management at Yale University. “You might not have as many options in a day, but you’ll get the same options in a few weeks.”

Taherian said Yale found that more variety also increases food waste, which means A stricter daily menu could help combat the bottom line that has long weighed on campus dining halls, while better protecting the environment.

To address food waste, Yale’s roast chicken is now also custom-made to avoid cooking many of which may go unused.

Price and supply issues give schools more reason to make a change they already deem essential: embrace more plant-based foods. Demand for these items is increasing on campuses, including at schools where populations have become more cosmopolitan – meaning students may come from places where cooking is less meat-focused.

UMass Amherst, daily supply 50, 000 meal, steamed dim sum provided twice a week, making 4, 50 to 5, 000 fresh every day Sushi Rolls, said Ken Toong, executive director of system-assisted services, % of the menu is plant-based.

Some strategies for dealing with food inflation and supply chain issues are not particularly obvious to students. Cornell University, for example, entered into purchase agreements with two other nearby schools early in the pandemic to get better prices and avoid limited supplies.

Other schools focused on dealing with headwinds from a tight labor market, including relying more on single-use, recyclable containers rather than repeatables at a time when hiring dishwashers was difficult and expensive used plate. Like dorms and parking lots, colleges have historically been moneymakers.

“We continue to improve efficiency,” Toong said.

©2022 Bloomberg LLC



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