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Education
Logan Middle School students get a glimpse — and a taste — of what it's like to run a food truck
Peter Thomson, La Crosse Tribune 

School staff and community members chose from five local food trucks at Logan Middle School Friday during the Food Truck Friday fundraiser. Money raised will go toward paying off outstanding balances on students' lunch accounts.

Niklas Daykin can see it now.

A sunny day. A busy street. His very own food truck.

“We’d serve chopped-up bacon, bacon with syrup on it, any kind of bacon you can think of,” said Niklas, an eighth-grader at Logan Middle School. “I’d just be happy saying, ‘Welcome to Daykin’s Bacon.’”

Logan hosted five of the area’s most popular food trucks at the school’s inaugural Food Truck Friday, a chance for students to learn about and tour these mobile restaurants, and for parents to get lunch with their children.

“There are lots of food trucks in our community, so why not bring them here?” said Katelyn Hoffman, the school’s family and consumer science teacher. “One, the kids love to eat. Two, you’re starting to see lots of trendy enterprise types of businesses out there. We want to show students that they can do that right here in their hometown.”

MidWest Bites, Apothik, Fathead Steve’s, WoodShed Pizza and Pappi’s Taqueria y Mas formed a tantalizing line in front of the school, the unmistakable smell of grease wafting from their windows.

Students crowded together to watch, transfixed, as Kari Babler prepared a wood-fired pizza at WoodShed, and as Alex Gonzales fried a batch of golden nachos at Pappi’s.

Eighth-grader Cole Wieland said that, if he owned a food truck, he would sell food from 4 Sisters, a wine bar and tapas restaurant run by his family.

“It would be nice having a truck to yourself, something small,” he said. “You could work with your friends, your family, your wife.”

Classmate Anna Pollock said her truck would serve Asian food — rice and noodles — while Kaitlyn Iverson said she would peddle cupcakes.

Peter Thomson, La Crosse Tribune 

Dylan Meyer, a business education teacher at Logan Middle School, digs into a Mac Dog Friday from the MidWest Bites food truck. Five area food trucks visited the school’s Food Truck Friday fundraiser event.

“On cold days,” Kaitlyn said, “we’d have hot chocolate.”

Food truck vendors say it’s important to be flexible, willing to adapt to the weather or the whims of customers.

When it’s unseasonably warm in, say, February, Babler and her husband, Tom, are known to bring their truck out of its hibernation, if only for a day.

They also change their menu depending on what’s in season, adding items like the kale and asparagus pizza.

“Seeing someone’s face when they try our pizza for the first time,” Babler said. “To me, that’s the best part.”

The Gonzales family opened Pappi’s two years ago, and is expecting the businesses to take a leap forward this summer.

The family is adding empanadas and chimichangas to the menu and extending its service radius, doubling down on an investment that was terrifying, at least at first.

“It was very nerve-wracking, very scary,” said Noel Gonzales, the owner. “You just have to make sure that you have the passion for it. I could cook all day long, and I wouldn’t be bothered by it.”

Logan students are taking their own crack at it; their food truck ideas are not just imaginary.

Hoffman said she has assigned the class a project that involves developing a food truck business model and building a cardboard version of the vehicle itself.

She hopes to make Food Truck Friday an annual event — both for the educational value, and the philanthropic. A share of the proceeds will go to students who are behind on their school lunch payments, helping ensure they will not be denied a meal.

“A lot of kids come to school hungry, and lunch might be their only meal of the day,” Hoffman said. “No family should ever have the burden of not being able to eat.”

That was not a problem on Friday, not with the free samples.

As the students crowded around Pappi’s, reaching for the nachos that were being passed out of the truck, Hoffman announced that the fun was over. It was time to go back to class.

One student lingered by the truck, taking in the sights and smells, as if held there by magnetism.

“You know nobody’s going to share, right?” he said.


Class action denied for vets' lawsuit over Tomah VA dental problems

A federal judge on Thursday denied class action status for a lawsuit filed on behalf of nearly 600 veterans who were told they could have been exposed to infectious disease by improperly sterilized dental instruments, ruling that a class action is not the best way to resolve the case.

U.S. District Judge William Conley said the case, filed against the U.S. government by a group of veterans who received dental care at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah, satisfies some requirements for class action status, but it fails on other criteria.

Six veterans filed the lawsuit in 2017 on behalf of a proposed class of 592 vets. All had received letters informing them of possible exposure to blood-borne diseases, including HIV and hepatitis, from improperly sterilized instruments used by Dr. Thomas Schiller, who was a dentist at the VA. After medical tests, none were found to have contracted any disease, but the lawsuit alleges that the vets suffered emotional distress after learning of the possibility of serious illness.

Conley wrote in his ruling that the “general failure” of the VA to meet its duty of care was not in question, because the VA had sent out letters that gave rise to the vets’ claims in the lawsuit.

But he wrote that the vets’ two claims — negligent infliction of emotional distress and negligent training, supervision and retention of Dr. Schiller — require “individual questions of causation and damages” that “not only predominate over the question common to the class, they are essentially the only questions remaining, nullifying any efficiencies achieved through class adjudication.”

Conley also wrote that because the cause of damages must be determined individually, “a class action is not a superior method for resolving this dispute.” He added that individual inquiries would create “serious manageability problems if the case were to proceed as a class action.”

Lawyers for the veterans did not respond to messages seeking comment.

The case is scheduled for a trial before Conley in October. Conley had previously denied the government’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.


FILE PHOTO  

Six veterans filed a class-action lawsuit in 2017, claiming they suffered emotional distress after learning that a dentist at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah may have spread blood-borne infections by using unsterilized instruments.


ColtenB / Associated Press 

Mississippi State offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins runs a drill at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. Green Bay selected Jenkins with the No. 44 overall pick on in the NFL Draft on Friday, with his versatility being a major selling point.


Local
Families share their medical difficulties with Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Rep. Ron Kind

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and U.S. Rep. Ron Kind discussed health care policy during an event Friday in La Crosse.

Mariah Olson fills more than 30 prescriptions a month and takes at least 50 pills a day, some of which are required for her to live.

Olson was one of six Wisconsinites who spoke Friday about the medical challenges she faces to U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and U.S. Rep. Ron Kind during a press conference in La Crosse.

The Trump administration filed a brief to overturn the Affordable Care Act in late March. The Affordable Care Act, among other things, prevents insurance companies from denying coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

Baldwin

Kind

Sen. Baldwin, D-Wis., along with all 47 Senate Democrats, introduced a Senate resolution, which “calls on the Trump administration to reverse its position on repealing the entire Affordable Care Act,” according to the press release.

“You’re here and you’re going to fight back, and we’re all going to fight back together,” Sen. Baldwin said, “to protect … the law that ended insurance abuses.”

Olson said she has had 43 surgeries in her life, one of which cost a quarter of a million dollars, and suffers from about a hundred medical conditions. “Having health care is so important, otherwise my husband and I would have to declare bankruptcy,” she said.

“Up to one-half of all Wisconsinites had some form of a pre-existing condition. One-third of them are children,” Kind, D-La Crosse, said, “There’s nothing more impactful, I think, than hearing what you’re all going through on an individual basis.”

Molly Hilligos and Teri Hepler talked about the day their son was diagnosed with left-sided hemiparesis, a weakness on an entire side of the body, saying, “We walked into a doctor’s office and walked out in a totally different situation,” Hilligoss said.

Their first-grader needs habilitation therapy, a service for people who have never developed a skill. Hilligos said her son just learned how to swing on the monkey bars last week and “grip with his left hand in a way that … we never thought would be possible.”

Insurance companies don’t need to cover habilitation therapy because the law doesn’t direct them to, Sen. Baldwin said.

“I can’t fathom that … it would be OK in this world (for insurance companies to say) I’m not going to offer any kind of physical therapy because your child (couldn’t) do that before,” said Derek Updike, whose teen daughter, Kiara, suffers from a rare disease.

Kiara, who was at the press conference, said the rare syndrome was discovered in 2001 and that she’s needed 14 major surgeries in her lifetime and has limited use of her left arm.

“In this country we shouldn’t have to decide whether or not we can afford to take care of our health,” Olson said.


Baldwin


Local
Part of Second Street to be closed to traffic for about a month

Second Street in La Crosse, between Pine and La Crosse streets, will be closed to traffic for about a month, starting Saturday.

The closure is because of utility and road work associated with construction of the Landmark By the Rivers apartment and retail complex.

City officials recommend Third and Fourth Street as detours and say motorists should expect delays during the morning and afternoon commutes.

The road is expected to reopen to traffic before Memorial Day.