As school nutrition professionals spend the summer planning for what school foodservice may look like in the fall, some states have begun to release sets of guidelines for how schools can best serve students during the pandemic. Here’s an overview of some of those recommendations.
The Oregon Department of Education guidelines ask that district officials include nutrition staff when laying out their plans for the year. Along with sanitizing tables and common touchpoints after every meal period, staff serving meals will be required to use face masks, and students will have to wash their hands both before and after eating. The guidelines also recommend that schools find ways to stagger mealtimes, switch to disposable utensils, use non-contact payment methods and restrict access to vending machines.
The Indiana Department of Education states that schools should try to serve meals in the classroom when possible. Meals should be bagged or boxed and include the necessary utensils, condiments and napkins. If food is being served in the cafeteria, the state recommends installing sneeze guards on cafeteria lines and tape markers on the floor to encourage social distancing. No self-serve items should be served, and students should not share food.
School districts in California are recommended to designate someone on the nutrition team as a COVID-19 coordinator. Staff should be properly trained on health and safety protocols, and the nutrition team should try to alter employee shifts so the fewest number of staff are in the kitchen at one time. The state also says that meals should be individually wrapped and that self-serve options like salad bars and share tables should not be available.
Georgia has split its recommendations into three different models—substantial spread, minimal or moderate spread, and low or no spread—depending on the number of confirmed cases in the area. For schools that fall under substantial spread, the state recommends switching to remote learning as they did in the spring, with school meals served remotely. With minimal or moderate spread, the state recommends precautions such as using disposable servingware and placing social distancing markers. It also suggests that officials look at serving meals in alternate settings, such as the classroom. Schools operating in areas with low or no spread are advised to take preventative measures, such as having students and staff use hand sanitizer, allowing masks and thoroughly cleaning the cafeteria.
The North Carolina Department of Education also offered a range of recommendations based on the amount of COVID-19 spread. With plan A (minimal social distancing) and B (moderate social distancing), schools should eliminate self-service options in the cafeteria and instead offer individually wrapped meals. If students can’t maintain social distance in the cafeteria, the state then recommends that they eat in classrooms. Plan C (remote learning) recommends that school nutrition teams switch to grab-and-go meal sites or meal delivery like they did in the spring.