The way that school cafeterias look and operate has significantly changed since the COVID pandemic began. Maintaining safety protocols while ensuring that hundreds, if not thousands of children and staff get fed several times a day can be a challenge. There are many ways that school districts around the country have adjusted to help make sure children have enough to eat throughout the day. Here are some solutions districts around the United States have implemented to keep school cafeterias operating safely and effectively during these times.
Maintaining Safe Distances
Keeping the CDC standard of being 6 feet apart isn't always easy for children, but mandatory for keeping cafeterias operating and children and staff safe. In addition to social distancing markers, school cafeterias install plexiglass partitions that separate children at the tables. Schools can have the partitions set up in front of or to the side of students. Chairs are staggered depending on where the dividers are, helping with distancing when children have to remove their masks to eat or drink.
Becoming more cautious about how food is handled has put schools with salad bars in a strange position. Salad bars are a great source of fresh fruits and vegetables that some children might not otherwise have access to at home. But many schools are rightly concerned with maintaining a safe salad bar right now. While foundations that provide salad bar donations to schools around the country have put application processes on hold, they plan on eventually continuing, which means salad bars in school won't become completely obsolete.
Having Pre-Packed Options Available
A simple way to maintain food safety in school cafeterias is to offer pre-packed meal options. Pre-packed meals give students food choices in individually wrapped food (IWF) packages, providing faster service and keeping everyone at the proper social distancing requirements. LTI's Specline Grab' N Go carts, along with their Grab-a-Bag cart, are perfect options and have the opportunity to be branded with your school's color and logo. Along with carts, some districts are purchasing packaging machines to create a wider variety of IWF offerings.
Taking Lunch Out Of The Cafeteria
Another adjustment some schools have undertaken is to bring lunch to the children. Some schools are now serving lunches in classrooms to make it easier for younger or special needs children to remain in their classroom bubble. That requires having a method to transport food to different areas of the school campus. Cambro offers multiple options that help transport food, including their wheeled hot boxes to serve hot meals.
Food Pickup Locations
While feeding the children on campus is a big challenge, an even bigger one is feeding children who have not returned to traditional learning environments. Some districts in the United States have not returned full-time to on-campus learning, while other districts have given parents the option to continue with at-home education. These children still need to be fed. According to No Kid Hungry, 11 million children live in food-insecure households. Many school districts help their students' families during the pandemic by setting up food pickup locations so these children can have meals throughout the day. Some schools even offer food to anyone under 18, even if they're not one of their current students. While these pickups can put additional strain on school cafeterias budgets, their staff are committed to making sure their children don't go hungry.
Ready to finding out how your school cafeteria adjust to change? Schedule time to talk to one of our expert reps to see how Elevation Foodservice Reps can help.