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Study reveals school nutrition professionals’ safety worries during COVID-19

A majority of survey respondents said that employee safety was somewhat or much more difficult during the pandemic.
Photograph: Shutterstock

study recently published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior sheds light on the safety experiences of school nutrition professionals during the age of COVID-19.

For purposes of the study, a survey was administered between March 31 to April 20, 2020, and included respondents from 47 states. A majority (86.6%) of survey respondents said that employee safety was somewhat or much more difficult during the pandemic and that they didn’t know of an emergency plan.

Many respondents also said they experienced feelings of exhaustion, fear and stress, and had concerns around administrative interactions, logistics and protocols for serving emergency meals. Some respondents said they felt that there was a lack of support from state health departments as well as other faculty and staff in their districts. One school nutrition program director from Texas described how they believed the school nurse did not fully understand or care about the school nutrition teams’ safety since staffers were able to work from home.

"This was and continues to be a challenging time for school nutrition professionals and this research highlights that they have demonstrated resilience through the whole process," lead investigator Emily Vaterlaus Patten said in a statement. "USDA waivers have helped improve conditions, and nutrition programs have innovated their distribution methods. I think we are celebrating the enormous number of meals that have been served during this time and the people that made it happen." 

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